Notes and Editorial Reviews
Anton Rubinstein was an enfant prodige and virtuoso pianist, undertaking his first concert tour of Europe when he was just 11 years old. His performances led to encounters with Liszt and Chopin, and his skill was compared to other well-known 19th-century contemporaries such as Sigismond Thalberg.
Rubinstein's impact on Russian music history is undeniable -- he founded Russia's first conservatory in St Petersburg in 1862, appointing Cesare Ciardi as his collaborator; Italian music, especially opera, was enjoying a great vogue in Russia at the time. Along with the French, German and Austrian styles that were prevalent, Rubinstein craved a more indigenous style, and he therefore began to carve out a place for Russian music in
His violin sonatas were written over a timespan of 20 years, and yet there is a sense of extended narrative through which Rubinstein seems to link the First (Op.13) and Third (Op.98); written in the related the keys of G major and B minor, some of the thematic material from the first movement of the former appears again in the first movement of the latter. This disc comprises his complete music for violin and piano, performed by acclaimed violinist Daniela Cammarano (who plays 1780 Guadagnini violin and is regularly invited to appear as concertmaster with the most important Italian orchestras) and pianist Alessandro Deljavan (whose discography also includes recordings for the labels OnClassical, Stradivarius and Grand Piano).
- Recorded in 2013 at the Teatro 'La Nuova Fenice', Osimo, Ancona, Italy.
- Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894) was born in Moscow, went to Berlin (like many of his compatriots in his time) for his education, and returned to St Petersburg to start a successful career as composer, pianist and teacher. St Petersburg was a melting pot of different musical cultures, the German tradition as personified by Liszt and Wagner, Italian opera, and the budding Russian nationalism, as propagated by the Group of Five.
- Rubinstein's works are essentially romantic, based on the aesthetics of Schumann and Chopin. His violin sonatas span a period of over 20 years, and offer an abundance of warm, sweeping melodies and instrumental brilliance.
- Excellent new recordings by the Italian duo Daniela Cammarano and Alessandro Deljavan.
- Contains notes on the composer and works as well as artist biographies.
R E V I E W:
Violin Sonatas Nos. 1–3.
3 Salon Pieces. Soirées à Saint-Petersbourg:
Romance in E?,
Daniela Cammarano (vn); Alessandro Deljavan (pn)
BRILLIANT 94605 (3 CDs: 172:27)
Violinist Daniela Cammarano and pianist Alessandro Deljavan present Anton Rubinstein’s violin sonatas, fleshing out their 2-disc program with several short pieces (the
Three Salon Pieces
, op. 11, and the Romance in E? Major). The notes mention a Fourth Sonata, op. 119, but all the sources at my disposal mention only three—and, in any case, op. 119 appears to be a serenade not written for violin and piano. In any case, Cammarano produces a generally rich and fluid tone—though sometimes almost hollow and abrasive, especially in the lower registers—from the 1948 Vittorio Bellarosa violin upon which she plays; and the engineers have captured her at a close enough distance to pick up some breathing as well that varies in its obtrusiveness; and they’ve maintained a natural balance between the two instruments.
The First Sonata, from 1851, bears out, particularly in Cammarano’s and Deljavan’s performance, Fabrizio Festa’s observation in the notes that Rubinstein followed his melodic instincts and eschewed virtuosity, employing the piano rather than the violin for the most complex musical statements (or the most virtuosic ones). But within that realm of melody, the performers find in the first movement plenty of drama as well as lyricism, leading to an overwhelming climax arguably more visceral than cerebral. The duo finds within the second movement (a theme and two variations) a wide range of expressivity, from its sensitive theme to the more overtly virtuosic first variation and the highly nuanced and suggestive second (itself an extended meditation spanning more than eight minutes). They drive the scherzo forward with plenty of energy; and Cammarano’s authority—and the quality of her violin—allow her to hold her own with the declamatory piano part. The finale combines a stormy middle section with a slow outer one, a hybrid movement in which the duo finds many opportunities for ardent Romantic expressivity in both manners. The first and third movements alone occupy almost a half hour; but they offer so many melodic and dramatic pleasures throughout that the time passes almost unnoticed—in part a result of the duo’s strong championship of the work.
The first disc concludes with the
Three Salon Pieces
—at more than 22 minutes combined, hardly miniatures. And with their organization into a sort of fast-slow-fast pattern, they may seem to some listeners to form a whole. In fact, the first sounds hardly less strenuous or ambitious than does the sonata’s first movement. The second, at almost 11 minutes, comprises a number of tempos sandwiched between the outer sections marked
, which grow almost sultry at times during Cammarano’s performance. The final
, teasing and skittish at first, builds to the first burst of virtuosity to be heard on the first disc.
The second part of the program opens with the explosive first measures of the Second Sonata—measures in which Cammarano’s violin sounds particularly abrasive, although she can still make the ingratiating passages that follow richly melodic. Like the earlier sonata, this one’s expansive—almost 46 minutes long—but, like its predecessor, eventful; and the first movement (one of four that adhere more closely to the traditional pattern) features barnstorming thrills compared to which more wing-walking must pale in excitement—although the sonata’s
result principally from musical urgency rather than from virtuosic effects (at least in the violin part). The wistful central section of the scherzo serves in this performance as more than a mere interruption of the movement’s brisk energy. The theme of the ensuing
Adagio non troppo
sounds transcendentally serene in its individual statements by Cammarano and Deljavan, and they set the concluding passages soaring before the quiet ending. The final
pits an almost vocal theme in the violin against a rumbling accompaniment, an interaction that returns throughout the movement, although the musicians sometimes exchange parts in Classical dialogue.
The “Romance” has become a popular encore, played by crossover violinists like Florian ZaBach. Many will likely feel that in this less heavily weighted repertoire, Cammarano and Deljavan lack the elegant light touch: They play with a poignancy that may not seem altogether natural to listeners familiar with the work played as a miniature rather than as a part of a sonata recital.
The third disc, at 54:23, comprises only the Third Sonata, published, according to Festa, in 1878. This work begins darkly, but soon turns energetic, a manner congenial to Cammarano. Iit certainly has time to do so, as that first movement itself lasts just more than 20 minutes. Festa notes that Rubinstein’s emphasis on melody somewhat resembles Frédéric Chopin’s, and one of the sonata’s early melodies specifically recalls that pianist; but Rubinstein’s pianism in these sonatas exhibits a weightier character. Grand though the scale of this work may be, however, the writing once again, after 20 years, still evinces the chamber-music propensity for the partners to trade roles as the music proceeds. As in other movements throughout the program, Cammarano displays a steely brilliance as the music climbs into the topmost registers. The second movement, one of two marked
, seems like a sort of slow, though hardly lachrymose, scherzo; and the third movement, like a slow movement. In some of the throatiest deliverances, the harshness of Cammarano’s lower registers temporarily obscures her musicianship—but then, only temporarily. The finale, another long (but not long-winded) multi-tempo movement, far-ranging in expression, brings the sonata and the program to a close.
Rubinstein played Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata with violinist Henri Wieniawski in 1858 and persuaded the violinist to join him in Russia; perhaps Rubinstein learned something about violin playing from him (or, of course, elsewhere); and, in fact, Rubinstein composed an effective violin concerto as well as these sonatas and occasional pieces. But Rubinstein had completed his first two sonatas before the mid-1850s. Violinists who may not wish to program these somewhat desultory works may still find them rewarding listening, as should general listeners. Might one listener of that kind be the barber in the shop where I had my hair cut more than 50 years ago—a shop in which chess masters and violinists mixed in the conversations along with baseball. I’ve noted before that one of those barbers repeatedly maintained that violin music should be lyrical rather than pyrotechnical (he himself played the violin, and my father maintained his instrument). Even though the history of the violin may have been arrayed against him, Rubinstein seems to have shared his point of view. In any case, strongly recommended for program as well as for performances.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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