About this Recording
8.223382 - RUBINSTEIN: Piano Concertos Nos. 3 and 4
English 

Anton Rubinstein (1829 -1894) Concerto No

Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894)

Concerto No. 3 in G Major, Op. 45

Concerto No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 70

 

Anton Rubinstein was a towering figure of Russian musical life, and one of the 19th century's most charismatic musical figures. Rivalled at the keyboard only by Liszt, he was near the last in line of pianist-composers that reached a climax with Liszt, Busoni, and Rachmaninov. Like them Rubinstein's reputation as a composer in his day was more controversial than his reputation as a performer, but unlike them, his vast compositional output, much of it containing music of beauty and originality, still remains relatively unexplored territory. Rubinstein wrote his eight works for piano and orchestra over the last 44 years of his life, with the five concertos dating from 1850-1874. Two earlier unpublished piano concertos, now lost, were written in 1849, and a third "concerto" was revised and published as the Octet, Op. 9. The concertos were enormously popular in the later 19th and early 20th centuries and were not only performed by the composer himself, but by such stellar artists as Hans von Bülow, Ferruccio Busoni, Anna Esipova, and the composer's own brother, Nikolay. Josef Lhévinne chose to make his United States début in 1919 with the Fifth Concerto, and Josef Hofmann, himself a pupil of Rubinstein's, continued to perform frequently both the Third and Fourth Concertos well into the 1940's. The Fourth was at one time in the repertoires of both Rachmaninov and Paderewski. Rubinstein's Third and Fourth Concertos, like Rubinstein the performer, are grand in scope, and seething with passion, brilliance and poetry. In spite of occasional excesses, the listener is never in doubt of Romantic intensity on a huge scale. Both of these works were undeniable influences on Tchaikovsky's later written first two piano concertos.

 

The Third Concerto was composed in 1853-1854, given its first performance by Rubinstein himself with the London Philharmonic in 1857, then finally published a year later. Rubinstein relates that he had a dream in which the piano (in a church!) first asks to be accepted as an equal instrument of the orchestra. It is rebuffed by the other instruments, then rudely thrown out of the church. Leaving the psychiatrists to make what they will of this rather odd "programme", the Third Concerto is by far the most innovative of the five concertos; for in it are used cyclic and thematic recall procedures on a large scale. It is perhaps not coincidental that the work's dedication is to Ignaz Moscheies, who was himself an early pioneer in the use of such then revolutionary compositional devices. Although the opening movement can be fitted into a traditional sonata-form mould, Rubinstein intersperses several short solo piano cadenzas near the beginning, and omits both the traditional return to the main theme after the middle development section and the often expected large solo cadenza. Throughout the piano valiantly tries to match and even outdo the orchestra, as in the composer's own "dream". The second movement, after two bars of orchestral introduction, opens with the piano stating a melancholy, obsessively pleading melody. A warmly expressive middle section, now fully dominated by the piano, acts as a contrast before the eventual return of the opening section. The third movement is certainly in the most innovative from a compositional standpoint. Although cast in loose sonata-form, near the end there are five separate quotations of themes from the earlier movements. The coda makes use as well of modified thematic material from the first two movements. This cyclic recall of themes places Rubinstein's Third Concerto as an important forerunner of what would soon prove to be one of the most popular concerto forms of the 19th century.

 

This recording of Rubinstein Piano Concerto No. 3 is a world-première recording of the work in its uncut version.

 

The Fourth Concerto, with its near ideal balance between the piano and orchestra, has proved the most popular of Rubinstein's concertos, and is the one on which the composer lavished the most care. First written in 1864, after two further published versions Rubinstein finally published a last revision in 1872. The first movement opens with an orchestral statement of the main theme, then leads into an explosive opening cadenza for the piano. The piano then restates the main theme, now clothed in massive fortissimo chords which in the hands of the composer must have overpowered any orchestral sound of the day. After progressing in fairly traditional sonata-form, Rubinstein adds a massive piano cadenza (which was undoubtedly an obvious pattern to parts of Tchaikovsky's later first movement cadenza to his concerto in B flat minor), then rounds off the movement by another massive statement of the main theme and a breathless coda. The second movement is primarily in F major, yet starts in D minor as a tonal link to the preceeding movement. The principal theme is first given by the piano, then is eventually returned for two further embellished and modified statements. Overall this movement contains some of Rubinstein's most serene and lovely writing. Although the last movement has a wild, Russian dance-like character, it nonetheless is closer in character to the krakowiak, which is actually a dance of Polish origin. The opening main theme, first presented by the piano, contains imitations of characteristic shouts and stamping of feet, as would be found in a similar Russian folk dance. The 19th-century Russian composer and Rubinstein's contemporary, César Cui, felt this movement to be "something like those wild dances that Gluck and Righini wrote ... somthing like the alla Turca one finds in Mozart". The breathless dance-like pace, occasionally relaxed with more lyrical passages, continues headlong to a frenzied coda that ends the concerto with an avalanche of virtuosity for the piano.

 

Joseph Banowetz

 

Joseph Banowetz is internationally recognized as an artist whose performances of the Romantic literature of the piano have earned the highest critical acclaim. Fanfare Record Magazine (U.S.A.) termed him one of "the pre-eminent 'three B's' of Liszt playing." His world-premiere recording of the complete Balakirev Scherzos and Mazurkas for Marco Polo was given a Deutsche Schallplattenkritik citation in West Germany as an outstanding recording for 1987.

 

Born in the United States, Banowetz had part of his early training in New York City with Carl Friedberg, a pupil of Clara Schumann. After continuing his studies at Vienna's Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Banowetz's career was launched upon his graduating with a First Prize in piano. He was then sent by the Austrian government on an extended European concert-tour. He has, since then, performed throughout North America, Europe, Russia, Asia, New Zealand, and Australia.

 

Following his first appearances in the Orient in 1981, Banowetz has been received with ever-increasing enthusiasm. He is the first foreign artist ever to be invited by the Chinese Ministry of Culture both to record and to give world premiere performances of a contemporary Chinese piano concerto, Op. 25b of the composer Huang An-lun. Banowetz has recorded with the Czechoslovak Radio Symphony, the Budapest Symphony, the Hong Kong Philharmonic and the China Central Opera Orchestra of Beijing.

 

Czecho-Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra (Košice)

 

The East Slovakian town of Košice boasts a long and distinguished musical tradition, as part of a province that once provided Vienna with musicians. The State Philharmonic Orchestra is of relatively recent origin and was established in 1968 under the conductor Bystrik Rezucha. Subsequent principal conductors have included Stanislav Macura and Ladislav Slovák, the latter succeeded in 1985 by his pupil Richard Zimmer. The orchestra has toured widely in Eastern and Western Europe and plays an important part in the Košice Musical Spring and the Košice International Organ Festival.

 

For Marco Polo the orchestra has made the first compact disc recordings of rare works by Granville Bantock and Joachim Raff. Writing on the last of these, one critic praised the orchestra for its competence comparable to that of the major orchestras of Vienna and Prague. The orchestra has contributed many successful volumes to the complete compact disc Johann Strauss II and for Naxos has recorded a varied repertoire.

 

Robert Stankovsky

 

Robert Stankovsky was born in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, in 1964, and after a childhood spent in the study of the piano, recorder, oboe and clarinet, turned his attention, at the age of fourteen, to conducting, graduating in this and in piano at the Bratislava Conservatory with the title of best graduate of the year. Stankovsky is regarded as one of the best conductors of the younger generation in Czechoslovakia. For Marco Polo Stankovsky has recorded symphonies by Rubinstein and Miaskovsky in addition to orchestral works by Dvorák and Smetana.


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