Anton Rubinstein

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Violin Sonata No.4 in D Major, Op.18b

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. 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. 

What has come to be known as Violin Sonata No.4 started out as a cello sonata. It was so popular that his publishers asked him for a version for violin. He complied. The sonata is a fairly early work, written at a time when Mendelssohn was Rubinstein's model. Although the former's  influence can, at times, clearly be heard, nonetheless, the sonata is as good as those of Mendelssohn. The opening Allegro moderato begins somewhat quietly with a determined, processional theme. The development is livelier and leads to a broad, lyrical melody. There is a cadenza for the violin which then leads to the coda. The middle movement, a cross between a scherzo and an intermezzo, is a rocking Siciliano, full of melancholic charm. However, there is also a stormy middle section which provides excellent contrast. The brilliant finale, Allegro molto, brings to mind Mendelssohn. Against the sparkling piano part, the violin gives out a brief "trumpet call" before emitting the joyous main theme.

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