Violin Sonata No.3 in b minor, Op.98
Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894) was one of the great piano virtuosi of the 19th century with a technique said to rival that of Liszt. He also gained renown as a composer and conductor. Rubinstein was one of those rare concert virtuosi whose contribution to music went far beyond performing. In 1862, he founded the St. Petersburg Conservatory and served as its first director. His efforts in developing Russian musical talent were perhaps the greatest of any single individual. Not only did he introduce European educational methods but he also established standards that were as rigorous as any conservatory in Europe.
While Rubinstein's compositions were extremely popular during his lifetime, after his death, they were criticized because they showed "no Russian influence" and were viewed as derivatives of prominent European contemporaries, especially of Mendelssohn. Despite the fact that commentator after commentator has repeated this assertion, almost as if it were a litany, it is nonetheless not entirely accurate. Although he was not part of the so-called emergent Russian national school as led by Rimsky Korsakov, it is not true that there is no Russian influence to be found in his music. This influence is just not as pronounced as in the works of Borodin, Mussorgsky or of Korsakov himself. However, listeners to Rubinstein's works will not only hear the influence of Mendelssohn, but also hear Russian melody and rhythm of the sort used by Borodin and others 20 years later.
Rubinstein's Third Violin Sonata was dedicated to the violinist Leopold Auer. Rubinstein, who at the time was looking for a violin professor for his new conservatory, heard Auer play whilst in London and offered him the position. Auer accepted and taught there for nearly 50 years, becoming one of the most famous teachers of all time. The Sonata dates from the late 1870's and is in four movements. The massive opening movement, Allegro vivace, begins with a short, but dramatic introduction. The main section is full of compelling melody and tremendous forward drive which give creates tremendous excitement. The second movement, Moderato assai, is gentle and sweet and has an almost salon-like quality, but it also features a very interesting section. An Adagio comes next. Is main theme is noble and reflective. The finale, Allegro moderato, combines a lively main section with a more lyrical and romantic second section.
This a major sonata that surely belongs in the repertoire and in recital where it is sure to make a very strong impression.