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Posted October 1, 2010
This Mendelssohnian symphony from the mid-19th century is the earliest Russian symphony in my CD collection. It is difficult to conceive as Russian because of Rubinstein's cosmopolitan culture. It is sturdy, unambiguous and pleasing but rather ordinary compared to the composer's best, Nos. 2 and 5. Rubinstein grew more nationalistic as his career progressed but never enough to satisfy the younger generation of Mussorgsky, Borodin and Tchaikovsky. The tone poem "Ivan the Terrible" on this recording, dating 1869, adopts a nationalistic program. Rubinstein's program music never measures up to his symphonies but my judgment on this point reflects a tacit comparison between these works and Tchaikovsky's brilliant "Francesca da Rimini," "Hamlet" and the "Manfred Symphony"-- the best part of the younger composer's output. Rubinstein's basic style is too tame to work as well in dramatic program music as in the more formal symphonies. The growing dominance of program music in Rubinstein's time prompts the recording notes to suggest that Liszt must have regarded the formal symphony as outmoded when he reviewed Rubinstein's work.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.