Compositions with Violin and other Chamber Music by Justin Henry Rubin

Justin Henry Rubin

GENE KOSHINSKI, percussion

World Premiere Recordings



"This collection of [Rubin’s] chamber works reveals a communicator and a sensitive colourist with interesting things to say in his music… This well engineered disc is tautly annotated by the composer. His compositional voice is unthreatening but thoughtful and he conjures up attractive sonorities."
Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International - April 2012
"[In the] bucolic Ecloga for violin and piano...pianist Shannon Wettstein plays it with rose-petal-lovely tones while violinist Erin Aldrich demonstrates her virtuosity. The same duo plays the amber-toned variations on the Bach chorale for the feast of the Annunciation and the plaintive Estemporaneo per Due Musicisti. One of the most interesting pieces, Ecossaises, consists of four engaging movements: frettoloso (hasty), buffonesco (comical), vezzoso (charming), and ondeggiante (undulating). It pairs violin and marimba, a combination that works quite well because basically the percussive marimba has pitches that can replace the piano. The Piccolo Scherzo per Tre Strumenti is an amusing piece that uses the same pair of instruments with the addition of a bass line played by bassoonist Jefferson Campbell. Una Serenata per Cinque is a pleasing chamber work interpreted by the University of Minnesota’s Duluth Faculty Woodwind Quintet.

Two catchy folk dances are joined by a lyrical interlude and are brought to a fitting end in a rousing canon. Martin and Cecilia Gelland, Swedish violinists, form the Duo Gelland. They play the closely harmonized Three Chorales and the sometimes happy, sometimes lyrical Samuel Greenberg Constellation. Rubin’s disc continues with the fantasy on Pamina’s aria “Ach, ich Fühl’s” from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Somehow, hearing the soprano’s music played on Campbell’s bassoon with Wettstein at the piano is rather unexpected, but it works. The finale is a short piece titled On Another Last Day, and it is the only work played by the composer. In it, he and violinist Aldridge celebrate the end of the school year, but their joy is tempered with sadness at the loss of companionship.

Rubin’s music is interesting and distinctive. He knows how to write for each of the instruments he calls for and he harmonizes them well. Recording engineer Eric Swanson provides good balances, especially for the quintet, and the sound of each instrument on every track is clear. This music may be a bit unusual for some listeners, but it’s very worthwhile for those who like to hear something new."

Maria Nockin, Fanfare - January/February 2012
Egloga (2006) is a pivotal work in my chamber output as it arrived after two years of a significant drop in musical composition and, admittedly, my dedication to the Art. With this piece (which translates as ‘short poem’) I overcame my reticence towards multithematic writing within an elaborate form. I believe one can say that I began to give in to my natural impulses in order to find my voice. This is also one of the few pieces in my output that consciously conceives the soloist in a quasi-virtuoso role, exemplified by the two cadenzas.

Variations on “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” (2009) was composed in memory of Hugo Distler (1908-42), the only Master composer to have committed suicide. The 16th century chorale upon which my four variations and reprise are based, was also set as an organ prelude by Distler - the first piece I ever learned by him. My work begins (and ends) with a Distler-inspired, rhythmically intricate and contrapuntally conceived variation, with successive variations of increasingly personal character.

Ecossaises for Violin and Marimba (2009-10) was similarly conceived as a companion piece to the Bagatelles for Bassoon and Marimba (2008). Like the earlier work, individual miniatures have distinct stylistic premises and a shifting relationship between the parts. Although I had written one previous composition for woodwind quintet it has always been an ensemble that I have had a difficult time wrapping my mind around how to utilize well.

In early 2007, when I was going through a troubling period of stylistic transformation, I often returned to traditional forms such as dances (furlana), hockets (uchetti), and canons (caccia) as stable platforms on which to launch experiments such as Una serenata per cinque.

The Three Chorales for Two Violins were composed intertwined with the Greenberg Constellation. As part of my life-long love of the historical treatment of chorales, the duo creates a superb environment for experimentation with bicinia textures: two part cantus firmus-based pieces that originated with the two manual organ pieces of Samuel Scheidt and Jan Sweelinck in the early 17th century.

In an attempt to capture the sentiment of a true ‘scherzo’, Piccolo scherzo per tre strumenti (2009) is more of a play on musical rhetoric than a pure composition. Focused on a whimsical interplay between the soloists, the swaying percussive framework provides a tonally ambivalent environment for the pair in which to gently romp.

Estemporaneo per due musicisti (2007) loosely meaning ‘Impromptu for two musicians’, was composed at a time when I was doing a great deal of study and publishing on the music of Schubert. Estemporaneo began as a contemporary application of chordal voicing as grounds for contrapuntal thinking. It was also the first of a series of ‘estemporaneo’ works, so called because I wrote each during a period when I had little extended time for concentrated composition and as such wrote in short, hurried bursts, assembling the pieces in a mosaic of twenty and thirty minute sessions.

Samuel Greenberg Constellation. In the Spring of 2009, Cecilia and Martin Gelland visited the University of Minnesota Duluth to perform and work with my students. As part of their stay I wrote a short piece (Love! is truly a lost jewel…) inspired by a poem by the proto-surrealist American author Samuel Greenberg. Duo Gelland appreciated the work to the extent that they asked me for more pieces in this vein. What followed became what I deem a ‘constellation’ of individual pieces that have no implicit connection to one another other than their shared source of textual imagery that begged for a musical interpretation.

Fantasy on Pamina’s Aria “Ach, ich fühl’s” (2009) was composed in response to a commission by colleague and great friend Jefferson Campbell. He specifically wanted a work based on his favorite selection from Mozart’s Magic Flute. Once I began exploring the piece I decided on a quasi-Busoni-styled reminiscence wherein all of the harmonies are all reinterpreted, the themes and structure reconfigured, and the narrative re-framed into an abstract instrumental ‘song without words’. In a way it is more an homage to Busoni than a deconstruction of Mozart.

On another last day… This brief composition was begun on the final school day in May 2009. After all of the drama, activity, and excitement of the academic year, I am amazed by how it always seems to end - with sudden empty halls as if nothing had ever happened. A contemplative piece, I began to wonder about that last year and how I will feel when my office, too, is eventually emptied.

Composer, pianist and organist Justin Henry Rubin was born in New York City in 1971. Although he was drawn to music as a child, he did not seek formal study as a composer until his mid-teens at the Manhattan School of Music, where he also began piano studies under Philip Kawin. He went on to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts from the State University of New York at Purchase in composition under Richard Cameron-Wolfe and Dary John Mizelle, while becoming a proficient organist and theorist under the tutelage of Robert Fertitta. Cameron-Wolfe and Mizelle introduced him to the invigorating world of the avant-garde, while Fertitta instilled in him a passion for an understanding of the Master composers. Although Rubin towed this aesthetically ambivalent line both as a composer and as a performer (being an active pianist of the music of Xenakis and simultaneously being a church organist) his early work relied more on the former while neglecting the traditional forms of the latter. It is only recently that the broad-based musical vocabulary that he began developing during his years as a doctoral student at the University of Arizona (1995-98) under the guidance of Daniel Asia have begun to bear fruit. Rubin continues to try to forge new techniques for merging the seemingly incompatible styles that he has been committed to as a musician into a cohesive single language. In 1998, Dr. Rubin was appointed Chair of Theory and Composition at the University of Minnesota Duluth where he currently holds the rank of Professor and is the artistic director of the school’s annual New Music Festival. In 2009 he was inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Teachers and honored with the Horace T. Morse-University of Minnesota Alumni Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education, which represents the University’s highest recognition of its most distinguished scholar-teachers.



EGLOGA for Violin and Piano (2006)


ECOSSAISES for Violin and Marimba (2009-10)


THREE CHORALES for Two Violins (2009)


ESTEMPORANEO PER DUE MUSICISTI for Violin and Piano (2007)


FANTASY on PAMINA’S ARIA “ACH, ICH FÜHL’S” for Bassoon and Piano (2009)

ON ANOTHER LAST DAY… for Violin and Piano (2009)

MSR Classics