Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:


CHOPIN Frédéric
2 Polonaises, op.26, 2 Polonaises, op.40, Polonaise in f sharp, op.44, Polonaise in A flat, op.53, Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat, op.61, Andante spianato & Grand Polonaise, op.22.
Arthur Rubinstein (pianoforte)
Recorded March 1964
BMG RCA Red Seal 09026 63048-2 [74' 24"]
 £8.50  Amazon UK    £6.99  Amazon US

The F sharp minor Polonaise receives a staggeringly great performance, its epic scale encompassing fervent patriotic aspirations, desperate initiatives and aching nostalgia. Thereafter the "Heroic" Polonaise is proudly presented, the Polonaise-Fantasie ranges from poetic meditation (no pianist has matched Rubinstein in filigree passage-work such as that which opens this piece) and passionate sweep and the Andante spianato and Grand Polonaise provide respectively the opportunity to enjoy Rubinstein's unique singing tone over a rippling accompaniment and the scintillating accuracy of his fingerwork even in advanced age.

Up to that point I have to confess I hadn't enjoyed myself so very much. Rubinstein was by this time very much one of music's elder statesmen and one senses the responsibility he felt in committing to disc a just and faithful version of music which was especially close to his heart. Alas, like some of Klemperer's last performances, everything is spelt out so deliberately that the effect is marmoreal and static. In the 2nd Polonaise I agree with everything he does, but if only he'd get on with it! And is he not too dry in much of the "Military" Polonaise (op.40/1) and positively lethargic in the C minor?

A comparison with the original LPs shows that the sound has been improved enormously. Gone is the bright clanginess and the engineers have even found degree of bloom hitherto unsuspected.

Rubinstein was once invited to award the marks at the final exams of the Paris Conservatoire. After a while it was noticed that he always awarded either 20 (the maximum) or zero. Asked why, he replied "either they can play or they can't". According to this I should award my 5 for performance on the spot, but since I lack Rubinstein's divine simplicity I award: Performance: 1-4 4 stars, 5-8 5 stars, Recording 3 and a half stars stars [Star ratings have been abandoned but Chris rather defeats me here - Len]

Christopher Howell

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