I've been giving a closer listen to Anton Rubinstein's Concerto #4 in d minor, Op. 70, since finishing his biography last week. You can check out the score here.
Listening to the first movement, one cannot avoid the connections between this work and the more famous 1st piano concerto of Tchaikovsky. A tendency towards heavy blocked chords jumping across piano registers, the piano accompanying a lyrical orchestral melody with scalar passages, alternating octaves. The piano textures are remarkably similar, and take nearly the same kind of technique from the pianist. The cadenzas also begin the same way: arpeggiated Gb major chords in the LH, like a harp, while a RH melody slow builds.
So the question is: who copied?
Clearly the answer is Tchaikovsky. Rubinstein's concerto was written in the early 1860s, and the first version of Tchaikovsky's came in the early 1870s (never mind the revisions that it went through). According to the biography, Tchaikovsky adored the older Russian from a young age, and though Rubinstein could be considered the younger Russian's teacher, he rarely gave him much mind. Evidently Rubinstein was mostly a teacher by example, rather than a mentor.
Tchaikovsky eventually tired of the relationship and felt taken advantage of. But clearly in this early work, he took many ideas from Rubinstein.
I wouldn't say Rubinstein managed to create moments that are quite as memorable as Tchaikovsky's. The concerto opens without much note, and though the first piano entry is energetic and extroverted, still has no match to Tchaikovsky.
Rubinstein's melodies are beautiful, but not quite the earworms as Tchaikovsky's.
Still: this is a worthwhile concerto. It is very dramatic, especially the coda which follows the first movement cadenza. It shows off the pianist very well, but isn't tremendously difficult.
I'm surprised more students don't pick this piece up. It would make a great stepping stone to the more famous Russian concertos that followed it, but it's still a great piece. I suppose it doesn't have quite the practicality, because few competitions would accept it, nor would many orchestras think to program it.
But there are some excellent recordings out there (I've listened to Matti Raekallio and Joseph Banowetz) and I think many people know of the piece. Let's hope that more pianists pick it up.
"Modern performers seem to regard their performances as texts rather than acts, and to prepare for them with the same goal as present-day textual editors: to clear away accretions. Not that this is not a laudable and necessary step; but what is an ultimate step for an editor should be only a first step for a performer, as the very temporal relationship between the functions of editing and performing already suggests." -Richard Taruskin, Text and Act