Anton Rubinstein: Symphony No. 2, ‘Ocean’

performed by the Russian State Symphony Orchestra under Igor Golovschin

The Russian Symphony Part 1

So I started writing about the piece we will talk about today, and then I realized I’d listened to and wrote about the wrong symphony. 

Sort of. I knew I had been preparing no. 5, but I chose it based on its success as a symphony of Anton Rubinstein that wasn’t his first, but still fell within the timeline we’ll be laying out with these works. Well, it turns out it was written decades after some of the other works on our list, so in the interest of chronological order, we jumped back a few symphonies to his second, subtitled ‘Ocean’. We will eventually get around to the fifth, but not any time soon, I don’t think.
We chatted a bit yesterday about Rubinstein’s background and his… position in the classical music scene in Russia, and it will become more significant after next week’s articles, but this work can be viewed perhaps as a representation of a Germanic Russian in Russia before things start to get really nationalistic and really Russian.
The second symphony from this Russian composer doesn’t feel terribly Russian or Symphonic. Perhaps in a world before Debussy’s La Mer, this piece would feel less like a large-scale tone poem, something it seemed to lean toward as the composer worked on the piece later.
Despite Liszt’s lack of willingness to give aid to the young, poor Rubinstein, the symphony bears a dedication to Liszt. Its first performance was on March 6, 1852, and the American Symphony program notes state:

… it won the favor of audiences with its magnificent trumpet calls, swirling melodies, and solid structure. The ocean, according to Rubinstein, is depicted in the contrasts between the agitated and peaceful passages, the deep lyricism of the second movement, and the heroic chorale at the end of the fourth movement, when man’s spirit gains domination over the power of the ocean.

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Schumann: Variations on the name Abbeg, op. 1

performed by Vladimir Ashkenazy, or below by Christoph Eschenbach On to Schumann! Schumann was born the same year as Chopin, on June 8, 1810, and as we’ve stated with some of Chopin’s pieces, he made glowing statements about Chopin’s early works in his own early days as a music critic, even inspiring his own future father-in-law to sing the praises of Chopin’s op. 2, embarrassing its composer in the process. While Chopin marked the end of our really hefty address of some of the earliest piano works of really significant composers, I couldn’t help but add a few things to … Continue reading Schumann: Variations on the name Abbeg, op. 1

Chopin: Variations on ‘Là ci darem la mano’ for piano and orchestra, Op. 2

performed by Idil Biret and the Slovak State Philharmonic orchestra under Robert Stankovsky Eusebius came in quietly the other day. You know the ironic smile on his pale face with which he seeks to create suspense. I was sitting at … Continue reading Chopin: Variations on ‘Là ci darem la mano’ for piano and orchestra, Op. 2