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Posted October 1, 2010
This 5th symphony is the only one by Rubinstein that begins with a recognizably Russian folk theme. Perhaps by 1880 he has been listening to his pupil Tchaikovsky's music and has decided that he can remain smooth and cosmopolitan while using such material. In previous decades he angered the new generation of Russian composers by criticizing them as nationalistic amateurs without the professional finesse that he acquired from the example of Mendelssohn. Tchaikovsky sometimes sounds crudely obvious by Rubinstein's standard. I prefer the way Rubinstein employs Russian material in this Symphony No. 5. In comparing Rubinstein's symphonies with those of another Mendelssohnian of the period, Joachim Raff, I find that the Russian never creates the sensation of narrative texture that Raff's style achieves. Rubinstein's work remains dramatic like the music of his fellow countrymen and that is what we would expect from the composer of his fine opera The Demon. The combination of professional finesse and a dramatic emphasis results in some remarkable musical environments. The "Ocean" Symphony No. 2 possesses one of the most distinctive atmospheres I can remember. No. 5 is solidly entertaining from start to finish without demanding any special nationalistic sympathies.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.