Anton Rubinstein (November 28, 1829- November 20, 1894) held the dominant position in Russian musical life for much of the last half of the 19th century. Not only was he the most renowned pianist in Europe after Liszt, he was also the founder and first director of the St. Petersburg conservatory (the first such in Russia) and a prolific composer. His music was largely grounded in the Germanic tradition (Beethoven, Schubert, Schuman, Mendelssohn, etc-- though also Chopin, who was Polish), but with a solidity and presence all his own. His compositions include some 20 operas and sacred dramas, six symphonies (the second, the famed 'Ocean' Symphony, was at one point the most frequently performed symphony on the United States), eight concerti and several other concerted works, dozens of chamber works, including ten string quartets, and hundreds of songs and solo piano pieces.
Most of the works recorded here are receiving their premiere recordings. The three English songs from Op. 83 (his only settings of English lyrics), have never been recorded in English before, and the Six Songs, Op. 8 (Tracks 6-11), have never been recorded at all. The songs themselves range from a lighthearted evocation of a lover who can't quite leave the beloved ("Good Night") to an almost operatic expression of angst by a sailor adrift in a storm ("Der Schiffer").
Justin E.A. Busch (born April 23, 1959) is the leading contemporary composer influenced by Rubinstein (other influences include Dmitri Shostakovich, Paul Creston, and minimalism). His compositions, which have been performed internationally, include a chamber opera, two sinfoniettas, several other orchestral works, six string quartets, numerous other chamber pieces, works for choral ensembles, and dozens of songs and piano solos. Several dance and theatre groups have commissioned him to create new music for their productions. He is a past prizewinner of composition contests held by the Anchorage Flute Society and Zeitgeist, a St. Paul, Minnesota, new music ensemble.
Busch is also a widely published writer. In addition to hundreds of book and concert reviews in various periodicals, and wine columns in two separate independent magazines, his writings on music, film, and philosophical topics have been published by such journals as The Clarinet (U.S.), Wagner (U.K.), CineAction (Canada), and Aspekt (Slovakia). His fiction has appeared in Hooligan Follies and Challenging Destiny, and he is currently in the prepublication period of a 100,000 word fantasy novel. His breadth of interests comes naturally; his father was a professional academic and his mother a librarian who subsequently operated her own bookstore for over twenty years.
All of the performances recorded here are premieres. The song sequence, "Destiny and Desire," (Tracks 16-22) is based on poems of the early 20th century American poet Maryland Watson, whose only book, by the same title, was published in 1908. The music is some of Busch's lushest and most compelling, with 'Consent' (Track 19) being almost erotic in its intensity. The two Meditations are part of an ongoing set of mood pieces, for many different instruments, which is collectively Busch's most widely performed music. The three movement Suite, "Obsessions" (Tracks 13-15) written in 1986, has also been widely performed, and remains one of Busch's most popular pieces.
The CD package includes a sixteen page booklet with extensive program notes and translations of the German texts.