I arrive at this
latest Rubinstein-Naxos disc fresh from a brilliantly bracing Medici live
recital from the pianist. If proof were ever needed of the vitality of a
concert fraught with potential traps but surmounted with superb musicality then
this is it (see review
). With Naxos's disc we return to
the more placid waters of studio encounters.
is not to decry the quality of the music-making, because this disc
conjoins the so-called 'mid-period' Rubinstein recordings of the
two Chopin concertos, commercial recordings made seven years
The First Concerto was recorded in 1953 on
the West Coast with the LAPO and that occasional tyrant Alfred
Wallenstein, though doubtless he extended no tyrannical behaviour
towards his distinguished soloist. As ever we have the Rubinstein
recorded balance to contend with, in which - familiar to most,
doubtless - the piano receives an over-generous amount of air
time, helping to subsume orchestral counter-themes and wind lines.
Nevertheless on this occasion quite enough detail emerges from the
serried ranks of the Los Angeles orchestra to provide interest in
a performance long on poetic finesse from the soloist. This is
mitigated, it's true, by the balance which seldom allows
gradations of dynamics to register and this is a serious liability
in the slow movement which sounds over projected at some points,
notwithstanding the translucent beauty of Rubinstein's phrasing.
The Second Concerto sees him join forces with
William Steinberg and the NBC, a recording made in 1946. We notice
immediately the duller, drabber orchestral sound. Rubinstein's
very first entry is too loud and this is a pre-condition of
auditory entry to this kind of disc. Once accepted the pleasure to
be derived from the pellucid and rapt playing is inestimable.
Elegance and panache are two stock words one can apply to much of
the playing and fortunately some of the wind lines are more
audible than one might initially fear, at least until the finale.
The grand seigniorial control of the finale is vitality itself -
but the winds here are dull sounding, unfortunately.
transfers do all they can with these problems but short of
artificially re-balancing things, all one can do is present the
material as well as possible, something that's been carried out
review by Rob