Symphony No. 4 “Dramatic”/Rubinstein

November 19, 2012


Continuing their series of releasing Russian Disc material Delos offers a third offering of Anton  Rubinstein (1829-1894), his Dramatic Symphony written in the summer of 1874 and first performed in Europe and Russia in 1875. Maturity was on the side of Rubenstein as he undertook this 65 minute project. Primarily known as virtuoso pianist, his other side wrote several symphonies, piano concertos, and operas. Unlike his contemporary Glinka, Anton never integrated any of the Russian folk material into his works but chose instead to take the approach of Schumann and Mendelssohn, the Germanic sound. As a result he never achieved popularity as a symphonist. I can remember my first encounter with his Ocean symphony on the defunct Vox/Turnabout label and feeling disappointed because I didn’t hear those wonderful Russian folk melodies which attracted me to the Russian sound I’ve grown to love and appreciate in my fifty plus years as a classical listener. Moussorgsky described the work not as the Ocean symphony but a “puddle” and while I wouldn’t be that derogatory I would say I’ve had to listen to it many times before I got the feeling of the work and began to understand what he was attempting to accomplish. Such is also the case with his 4th Symphony. It is not one that you’ll not instantly warm up to but repeated listens will reveal the depth of what it has to offer.


The ominous chords of the cello and double with a violin melody in counterpoint certainly live up to the name dramatic and set the mood for much of the work in D minor. In between the dramatic chords which are now featured on the violin there is some lovely material from the brass. The second movement a Scherzo offers excellent interplay between the wind instruments and the slightly romantic violins. I very much enjoy the staccato rhythm of this movement. There is an all too brief fiddling solo from the violin that reminds me of more modern material. The adagio in F major is a yearning theme which makes you think of a quiet romantic setting near a favorite lake with a picnic basket.  The final movement, which has been highly criticized, returns to the ominous chords and a return to the principle theme. Trombones and piccolos introduce the return to the main theme.


This is the second recording that I have of the “Dramatic” Symphony the other being a Naxos (8.555979) with the Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Robert Stankovsky. I find the State Symphony Orchestra of Russia to be a little more at home with the work and give a slightly better performance although either recording is acceptable.  There is a shrill at the beginning of the first movement but this is heard on both recordings and must be the way it was written. The recordings are both digital and exhibit the noiseless characteristics. They seem to be properly miked. I would urge the listener to give this repeated listens. It is only then that you’ll come to realize the full meaning of the work.


Track Listing:


1…. Lento-Allegro moderato (22:12)


2….Presto (14:35)


3…. Adagio (1 5:13)


4….Largo-Allegro con fuoco


Total Time is 65:24


Igor Golovchin conducts the State Symphony of Russia Delos #DRD2012


Available as a digital download from






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