Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894) was an accomplished piano virtuoso and teacher who played a major factor in founding the St. Petersburg Conservatory. His Piano Concerto No. 4 (1864), of his five concertos, has best endured as a vehicle for luminaries like Josef Hofmann and Raymond Lewenthal. The Concerto conforms to the standard, “German” model, with three movements, the first of which builds grand lines and explosive transitions. Huge running passages, leaping octaves, and a potent solo cadenza help define Rubinstein’s romantic style. The slow movement, F Major Andante in ¾, emerges from a horn motif, and the
keyboard creates a solo nocturne of great beauty. When the orchestra rejoins the piano, they weave a delicate tapestry from the main theme that sounds balletic. Rubinstein saves the thunder and lightning for the finale, whose dance character resembles a Polish cracovienne. The second subject, rather genial echoes much of Schumann. The brilliant coda modulates into D Major. Rubinstein dedicated the work to Ferdinand David, who helped to create the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in 1845.
The Caprice Russe, Op. 102, technically Russian Capriccio in C Minor, was composed in 1878. The initial theme in the orchestra (35 bars) derives from Russian folk and liturgical elements. The piano entry imitates much of Liszt. The piece is dedicated to pianist Anna Essipova and caters to her flamboyant style. It falls into four sections: Moderato assai; Allegro moderato; Tempo I; Allegro (with coda). Rubinstein manipulates his themes in various, economic ways to achieve unity. The latter portions of the Capriccio exploit the keyboard for ostentatious virtuosity.