In 1859 Anton Rubinstein had founded the Russian Musical Society (RMS) under the patronage of Grand Duchess Yelena Pavlovna, and the next year saw the inauguration of the society's music classes. This activity was institutionalized in 1862 as the St Petersburg Conservatory, and various eminent foreign musicians were appointed as the conservatory's first professors. The foundation of Russia's first conservatory was greeted with hostile polemics from Stasov; he argued that the western educational model that had inspired Rubinstein's conservatory threatened to undermine the indigenous development of a Russian national music. Stasov's protest notwithstanding, the success of the St Petersburg institution led in 1866 to the foundation of a second conservatory, in Moscow, placed under the directorship of Nikolay Rubinstein; among its first appointments was Tchaikovsky, who had just graduated from the St Petersburg Conservatory. In 1871 Rimsky-Korsakov accepted an invitation to teach at the St Petersburg Conservatory. Each composer was eventually seen as founder of a compositional school: Tchaikovsky's Moscow school, which included Taneyev, Kalinnikov and Rachmaninoff; and Rimsky-Korsakov's St Petersburg school, which included Glazunov, Lyadov and Ippolitov-Ivanov. Higher instruction on the piano was by far in greatest demand in the new conservatories, and the revenue generated by the piano departments allowed other departments to continue without material worries; prominent among the two conservatories' piano professors were Anton Rubinstein and Yesipova, and soon the first generation graduates, Ziloti, Safonov Rachmaninoff and Goldenweiser. The RMS quickly extended its educational programme to the provinces and outlying territories; new music schools were established in Kiev (1863), Saratov (1865), Khar'kiv (1871), Tbilisi (1871) and Odessa (1886), all of which were accorded the status of state conservatories in the years immediately prior to the Revolution.
The foundation of the RMS by Anton Rubinstein in 1859 completely transformed the musical life of the two capitals. Both the St Petersburg and Moscow branches of the RMS established programmes of orchestral and chamber music, with up to 20 concerts a year in each city. The programmes combined the established western classics - Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Schumann in the view of Russians at this time - with new Russian works; there was also a growing interest in the revival of western Baroque music. In the 1886-87 concert season, Rubinstein presented a series of ten piano recitals designed as an education in music history, running from Baroque to contemporary works; the entire series was given in both St Petersburg and Moscow, and the recitals featuring Chopin and Schumann were received with particular enthusiasm. During the same season, Rubinstein conducted a parallel series of historical symphony concerts, and in the following season gave a new series of 53 lecture-recitals on the piano's repertoire.