Anton Rubinstein: Symphony No. 5; Dmitry Donskoy, overture; Faust, Op. 68


Russian composer Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894) wrote six symphonies, the Second, known as The Ocean, being the most frequently performed and recorded. His Symphony No. 5 in G minor appears far less commonly. Aside from this Naxos CD, there exists only one other currently active version in the catalog. This recording itself, performed by the George Enescu Philharmonic under Horia Andreescu, is the reissue of a release that originally appeared on Marco Polo in 1988. I can find no evidence that any other version was ever made commercially available.

Rubinstein's place in music history is better established as a legendary pianist than as a composer. A player of reputedly staggering ability, he was a child prodigy who matured to become one of the most famous piano virtuosos of his time. In his biography, Sergei Rachmaninov said of Rubinstein's art "It was not so much his magnificent technique that held one spellbound as the profound, spiritually refined musicianship, which spoke from every note and every bar he played." Rubinstein was also an influential educator. As founder of the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1862, he has influenced the art of countless musicians from Tchaikovsky to this day. As a composer, he wrote prodigiously in most every genre from solo piano and chamber music, concertos and orchestral works (six symphonies) to lieder, oratorio and opera (twenty of them!).

The Fifth Symphony is scored for a rather light-weight orchestra. In addition to strings and timpani, all of the winds and brass are represented in pairs, with the exception of the horns, Rubinstein calling for four. That's it. There are no color instruments, such as cor anglais, piccolo, or conta-anything and no low brass at all.

Rubinstein's early studies were in Berlin, which had a profound influence on his music. He adopted an early-romantic Germanic style that is more Schumann and Mendelssohn than Balakirev and Mussorgsky. But this Fifth is Rubinstein's most Russian sounding symphony; you'll be thinking Tchaikovsky from the opening measures. The sample we have for you to listen to is the opening seven minutes or so of the fourth movement, and you can hear various excerpts from the symphony in the video below.

More from this same recording provided courtesy of the Naxo label"