Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Arthur Rubinstein plays Music of Spain.

Manuel de FALLA
Noches en los jardines de España*
Danza del molinero
Danza del terror
Danza ritual del fuego

Danza española no. 5
La maja y el ruiseòor

Federico MOMPOU
Cançons i danses nos. 1 & 6
Arthur Rubinstein, Piano
* with Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Vladimir Golschmann
Recorded 1947, 1949, 1953-5 ADD mono
RCA 09026 63018-2 'Arthur Rubinstein Collection' no. 18 [66.56] Midprice

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There can be no doubt that Arthur Rubinstein was one of the outstanding pianists of the twentieth century. He was mainly known for his interpretations of Chopin and Beethoven and the 19th Century 'Great German Composers'.

One of the surprising aspects of Rubinstein's life and career was his love of Spain and for Spanish Music. This Polish pianist who trained in Berlin first visited Spain in 1915 and thereafter he was a constant visitor and bought a house in Marbella. He became friends with Manuel de Falla and with the composer's blessing made a keyboard transcription of the "Ritual Fire Dance" from the ballet "El Amor Brujo". This is included on the disc. He took great pleasure in being told that he played "like a born Spaniard".

The music on this disc was recorded between 1947 and 1954 and demonstrates a true understanding of the Spanish idiom and reflects the pianist's studies of flamenco music. It was, I think, Martha Argerich who commented that Rubinstein was a 'happy' player and these interpretations seem to reflect the joy of playing these works. His playing is very different from that of Alicia de Larrocha who often reflects the beauty and calm to be found in Spain, whereas Rubinstein seems to delight in the sunlight and happiness of the dance. The only major piece on the disc in de Falla's "Noches en los jardines de España" which Rubinstein treats as a virtuoso piece - here de Larrocha in her Decca recording with Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos takes nearly 25 minutes whereas Rubinstein is a staggering four minutes shorter. His is an exceptionally good performance, but very different from the Larrocha which latter, however, is probably more in tune with contemporary taste.

The disc opens with Granados' Spanish Dance No. 5 (Andaluza). This is a wonderful performance with immaculate phrasing and very flexible rhythm and sets the scene for the disc as a whole. The performance of Córdoba by Albéniz illustrates that Rubinstein had a serious side but again demonstrates both a high degree of virtuosity and also complete mastery of the Spanish idiom. All of the short Spanish pieces are played with the same degree of mastery; several of these pieces were used by Rubinstein as concert encores. It is good to see two works by Mompou included on the disc.

All the recordings are in mono and some taken from 78s but RCA is to be congratulated on the quality of digital re-mastering. In no case does the recording of the piano distract from the music, in fact most sound as if they were made yesterday. The sound of the orchestra in "Nights in the Gardens of Spain" is good for its age.

This disc is part of "The Rubinstein Collection" which has its unique packaging. This is in the form of a "Book" with its informative and beautifully printed notes by Paul Schiavo on good paper. The disc itself is slid into a paper sleeve inside the front cover and we must hope that the tight fit does not lead to scratching of the disc over time. The cover bears a fascinating line drawing of the pianist by Picasso. As discs are available individually, it seems perverse for the spine of the book just to contain the volume number (18 in this case) without any other indication of content; this will make it difficult to identify the disc from the shelf.

There is not doubting from this disc that Rubinstein was very special in this repertoire and at mid-price can be recommended to anyone interested in good piano playing and Spanish Music.

Arthur Baker

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