The two tone poems on this Delos CD were obviously cut from the same cloth, which would have been the stage curtain of an opera house because both were originally conceived as operas. Russian pianist, educator and composer Anton Rubinstein (1829 – 1894) wrote twenty operas and developed a flair for portraying various human characteristics in music. The two pieces on this Delos CD, Don Quixote, Musical Picture after Cervantes, Op. 87, and Ivan IV, Musical Picture after L. A. Mey, Op.79, never became operas, but were completed as character pieces based upon one fictional and one real subject.
Rubinstein’s music, coming right from the thick of the Romantic period in Russia, is somewhat out of the ordinary. At a time defined by the group of composers known as The Five, or The Mighty Handful (Balakirev, Cui, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin), Rubinstein eschewed the predominant Russian musical style for a more Germanic sound. Robert Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn were the strongest influences on his music. These two character pieces, while understandably not standard repertoire material, are suspenseful, rousing and rugged, and put on full display Rubinstein’s capacity for writing dramatic music.
Neither work has been regularly available on CD, and from what I can see, this recording, originally released on Russian Disc in 1993, is the only time they have appeared together. Authoritative performances come from Igor Golovchin and the Russian State Symphony Orchestra on a very welcome and great sounding reissue from Delos.
Delos has lately been making classic Russian Disc recordings of seldom-heard Russian music available to the public again; most notably the important works of pianist, composer and pedagogical pioneer Anton Rubinstein. This release offers Don Quixote and Ivan IV, his two “symphonic pictures” of memorable characters, in performances that have long been ranked as being the best available. Many of Rubinstein’s contemporaries considered these unique works to be among the finest music he wrote.
Don Quixote is a different sort of musical portrait of Cervantes’ famous fictional character that depicts the deranged old knight’s noble dreams and actions with sympathy and subtle humor, while avoiding the kinds of overtly comic musical portrayals we have from other composers. Likewise, his more serious tone-picture of Ivan IV (“Ivan the Terrible”) casts a comparatively favorable musical image of Russia’s legendary first Tsar, emphasizing his personal energy, idealism and grandeur rather than his notorious brutality.
As in the rest of Delos’ acclaimed re-releases of Rubinstein’s music on Russian Disc, these sweeping and idiomatically true performances are from the dependable State Symphony Orchestra of Russia, under the assured baton of Russian Maestro Igor Golovchin.
Composer: Anton Rubinstein
As a pianist, Rubinstein ranks amongst the great 19th-century keyboard virtuosos. He became most famous for his series of historical recitals—seven enormous, consecutive concerts covering the history of piano music. Rubinstein played this series throughout Russia and Eastern Europe and in the United States when he toured there. Although best remembered as a pianist and educator (most notably in the latter as the composition teacher of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky), Rubinstein was also a prolific composer throughout much of his life. He wrote … read more
Orchestra: State Symphony Orchestra of Russia
The Novaya Rossiya (New Russia) State Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1990. In 2002 Yuri Bashmet became its director, opening a new chapter in its history and bringing his own inimitable manner of interpretation, whereby each … read more
Conductor: Igor Golovchin