The first appearance of the first movement’s main theme, written in the piano part.
The Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22 by Camille Saint-Saëns, was composed in 1868 and is probably Saint-Saëns’ most popular piano concerto. It was dedicated to Madame A. de Villers née de Haber. At the première, the composer was the soloist and Anton Rubinstein conducted the orchestra. Saint-Saëns wrote the concerto in three weeks, and had very little time to prepare for the première; consequently, the piece was not initially successful. The capricious changes in style provoked Zygmunt Stojowski to quip that it “begins with Bach and ends with Offenbach.”
The concerto begins with a piano solo playing a long improvisational introduction in the style of a Bachfantasia. After the orchestra enters, the restless and melancholy first theme is played, again by the piano solo. Saint-Saëns drew the theme from his student Gabriel Fauré‘s abandoned Tantum ergo motet. A brief second theme appears, followed by a middle section of increasing degrees of animato. The main theme is recapitulated fortissimo and the soloist is given a long ad libitum cadenza. The Bach-like opening motif returns in the coda.
The second movement is in E-flat major and, instead of being a typical adagio, resembles a scherzo. The mercurial piano part is marked leggieramente, and the two main themes are clever and light-hearted. The energetic, delicate personality of this particular movement is characteristic of Saint-Saëns’ musical wit, most famously observable in Le Carnaval des Animaux.
The concerto concludes by returning to G minor. Like the preceding movement, it moves quickly; this time the form is an extremely fast, fiery tarantella in sonata form, featuring a strong triplet figure. At presto speed, the orchestra and soloist rush tumultuously along, gaining volume and momentum and finishing in a whirlwind of G minor arpeggios.
Rubinstein grew up on Piotrkowska Street, Łódź, Poland
was born in Łódź (January 28, 1887 — December 20, 1982), Congress Poland (part of the Russian Empire for the entire time Rubinstein resided there) on January 28, 1887, to a Jewish family. He was the youngest of seven children, and his father owned a small textile factory.
Arthur Rubinstein in 1971.
Arthur Rubinstein. However, his United States impresario Sol Hurok insisted he be billed as Artur, and records were released in the West under both versions of his name. At the age of two, Rubinstein demonstrated perfect pitch and a fascination with the piano, watching his elder sister’s piano lessons. By the age of four, he was recognised as a child prodigy. His father had a predilection for the violin and offered Rubinstein a violin; but Rubinstein rejected it because he thought his instinct was for harmony and
Rubinstein in 1906
polyphony. The Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim, on hearing the four-year-old child play, was greatly impressed, told Arthur’s family, 1894, seven-year-old Arthur Rubinstein had his debut with pieces by Mozart, Schubert and Mendelssohn. At the age of ten, Rubinstein moved to Berlin to continue his studies, and gave his first performance with the
A cast of the pianist’s hands, at the Łódź museum
Berlin Philharmonic in 1900, at the age of 13. Rubinstein made his New York debut at Carnegie Hall in 1906, and thereafter toured the United States, Austria, Italy, and Russia. In 1912, he made his London debut, and found a home there in the Edith Grove, Chelsea, musical salon of Paul and Muriel Draper, in company with Kochanski, Igor Stravinsky,
Rubinstein in 1963
Jacques Thibaud, Pablo Casals, Pierre Monteux and others. During World War I, Rubinstein stayed in London, giving recitals and accompanying the violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. In 1916 and 1917, he made his first tours in Spain and South America where he was wildly acclaimed. It was during those tours that he developed a lifelong enthusiasm for the music of Enrique Granados, Isaac Albéniz, Manuel de Falla, and Heitor Villa-Lobos. He was the dedicatee of Villa-Lobos’s Rudepoêma and Stravinsky’s Trois mouvements de Petrouchka. Rubinstein was disgusted by Germany’s conduct during the war, and never played there again. His last performance in Germany was in 1914. In 1921 Rubinstein gave two American tours, travelling to New York with Karol Szymanowski and his close friend Paul Kochanski. In 1932, the pianist, who stated he neglected his technique in his early years, relying instead on natural talent, withdrew from concert life for several months of intensive study and practice. Rubinstein toured the United States again in 1937, his career becoming centered there during the World War II years when he lived in Brentwood, California. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1946. A cast of the pianist’s hands, at the Łódź museum During his time in California, Rubinstein provided the piano soundtrack for several films, including Song of Love with Katherine Hepburn. He appeared, as himself, in films Carnegie Hall and Of Men and Music. Although best known as a recitalist and concerto soloist, Rubinstein was also considered an outstanding chamber musician, partnering with such luminaries as Henryk Szeryng, Jascha Heifetz, Pablo Casals, Gregor Piatigorsky, and the Guarneri Quartet. Rubinstein recorded much of the core piano repertoire, particularly that of the Romantic composers. At the time of his death, the New York Times in describing him wrote, “Chopin was his specialty . . . it was [as] a Chopinist that he was considered by many without peer”. With the exception of the Études, he recorded most of the works of Chopin. He was one of the earliest champions of the Spanish and South American composers and of French composers who, in the early twentieth century, were still considered “modern” such as Debussy and Ravel. In addition, Rubinstein was the first champion of the music of his compatriot Karol Szymanowski. Rubinstein, in conversation with Alexander Scriabin, named Brahms as his favorite composer, a response that enraged Scriabin. In 1975, a documentary named Artur Rubinstein, Love of Life was on; a TV special named Rubinstein at 90 represented he had been playing for people for eight decades. By the mid-1970s, Rubinstein’s eyesight had begun to deteriorate. He retired from the stage at age eighty-nine in May 1976, giving his last concert at London’s Wigmore Hall, where he had first played nearly seventy years before. Rubinstein, who was fluent in eight languages, held much of the repertoire, not simply that of the piano, in his formidable memory.