Robert Stankovsky: Anton Rubinstein Symphony 4 'Dramatic'

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Conducted by Robert Stankovsky with the Czecho-Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra.

I. Lento - Allegro Moderato - 00:00
II. Presto - 23:15
III. Adagio - 39:11
IV. Largo - Allegro Con Fuoco - 48:26

Rubinstein wrote his fourth symphony in 1874, the year of his eleventh opera, Die Makkabäer. He conducted a performance at the Crystal Palace in London during the course of a visit to England in 1877, when he also introduced to the English public his Ocean Symphony, pejoratively described by Mussorgsky as "a puddle". The first three movements of the Dramatic Symphony are scored, with all the clarity of Mendelssohn, for the normal classical orchestra, with pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets, French horns and timpani and strings. The symphony opens with a slow and ominous introduction, a violin motif entering above the sinister motif entrusted to cello and double bass. A dramatic Allegro moderato, where both motifs are used gives way to a more lyrical theme and a third of heroic triumph. The movement is in the prescribed classical form, with a central development that introduces some new material, before the return of the original themes, the first of which ends the movement.

The second movement Scherzo, again in D minor, includes passages of delightful interplay between pairs of wind instruments. There is a contrasting section with a solo violin, over an ostinato bass and a Trio in D major, before the return of the opening Scherzo. The F major Adagio opens with the strings playing a long-drawn melody. The woodwind at first predominate in a second theme, over a running violin accompaniment. Divided cellos and double bass introduce a flute solo and the woodwind return to the first theme before the end of the movement. Drama erupts again in the final movement, which opens with a slow introduction, to which trombones and piccolo are now added, before the unison strings embark on the Allegro con fuoco, with its angular opening theme. A second theme, in F major and marked Moderato assai, is ushered in by the first violins. There is a contrapuntal interlude for woodwind, based on an accompanying figure first heard in the opening bars of the symphony and an extended passage derived from the principal theme, before the return of the forceful theme itself. The second theme now returns in A major, played by the French horn. The symphony ends in heroic D major triumph.