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Why Rubinstein Wrote "Kamennoi Ostrow."

One of Rubinstein’s most popular pieces is his Kamennoi Ostrow, Opus 10, No. 22. This is one of a set of pieces named after an island in the Neva river, Russia. The following short article from Musical Trades gives an excellent idea of the source of Rubinstein’s inspiration:

“Kammennoi Ostrow, or Kamennoi Island in English, lies in the Neva river, near St. Petersburg. Any afternoon in summer, if you walk to the furthest extremity of its pine-treed avenues, you can see Finland in the distance, beyond a strip of sea, silvered under this clear, northern light. The delicate white chalets of the rich Petersburgers are set like pearls amid its greenness. Verdure and silvering lights are so rare in raw, blizzardly Russia that they make of this fitly a poetic spot, and when the chimes of the island bells break melodiously upon your ear you are ready to believe that Arcady is in Russia and not Greece.

“It was like this when Rubinstein, the dreamy-eyed, wandered here, happy and enchanted with the bells. Their music so haunted his ears that on his return to the chalet of the Grand Duchess Helene, whose honored guest he was, he wrote his famous composition, Kamennoi Ostrow, in which the soft chimes of the bells ring as sweetly as they do on the island.

“It was on the first night of his first opera in St. Petersburg that the Grand Duchess Helene met him and told him ‘he would come to something yet.’ Their friendship grew until she made him one of her own circle in Kamennoi Ostrow, and from that friendship of a great lady for an outcast and wanderer and its idyllic surroundings flowed the work of Rubinstein’s that his lovers love the best.”


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