, March 2002
"The Symphony No. 3 in A major Op. 56 (1855) makes a useful introduction to Anton Rubinstein's complete set of six. It's less inflated and rhetorical than its siblings, having a directness to its thematic material that's immediately appealing. And because No. 3 is abstract in content, and therefore far less reliant on descriptive effect than Rubinstein's later programmatic symphonies, the orchestration is more conservative--just pairs of woodwinds, four horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings.
Robert Stankovsky's 1993 recording was the best installment in his complete Marco Polo cycle...[his] interpretation is strong and purposeful. The arresting opening motto for strings and its contrasting C-sharp minor response from the winds each suggest a keenness of resolve and a real flair for the music's character that's often much less evident in this series. Stankovsky carefully marks the second subject's arrival, easing the tempo back to give the new idea (exchanged between strings and winds) its head--but underlining the point that it comes from the same fragments heard right at the start of the work by preserving tempo relationships. There also are some nicely prepared moments in the first-movement development, when Rubinstein builds a sequential melody from parts of the first theme, with haunting solos from clarinets and oboes. Sometimes the playing could benefit from more individuality and character (the oboes in particular are rather wooden-toned), but Stankovsky allows his soloists plenty of expressive freedom, again without losing pulse."