These classic recordings sound wonderful in their latest SACD
incarnation. Just listen to the sparkling crystalline clarity
of Rubinstein’s every note and chord - even in the fastest
trills and runs.
This latest RCA Red Seal “Living Stereo” release
brings together Chopin’s two piano concertos, early works,
on one CD. They were recorded separately in 1958 and 1961 in
America and London respectively - the booklet notes do not identify
the city where the Chopin Second Concerto was recorded. If my
memory serves me correctly the two concertos were refurbished
and released in the early days of CD when RCA were reissuing
many of their Living Stereo recordings in that format. The earlier
recording was two-track, the later, three-track
As everybody knows, Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto paradoxically
came first - it was completed over late 1829 and early 1830 -
but was published second. It is impossible to think of the work’s
famous and lovely central Larghetto without considering the composer‘s
love and yearning for his Constantia, a voice pupil at the Warsaw
Conservatory. Chopin, from afar, fell hopelessly in love with
her in 1829. “Tell her,” he wrote to a mutual friend, “that
even after my death my ashes shall be strewn under her feet”.
And he tingled with pleasure whenever a pocket handkerchief or
napkin, marked ‘Constantia’ fell into his hands.
It was an unrequited passion; when Chopin died all Constantia
could say was, “he was temperamental, full of fantasies
and unreliable”. Rubinstein heeds Chopin’s words
in his reading of this movement, “it’s not meant
to be loud – it’s more of a romance, quiet, melancholic
... it’s a sort of meditation in beautiful spring weather
but by moonlight”. Rubinstein is all delicacy and sweet
tenderness unfolding the intimacies, the yearnings and passions
implicit in this lovely music, making us know what it is like
to be a young man transported by love.
The equally celebrated slow movement of the Chopin Concerto
No. 1 is another example of rarefied cantabile pianism; actually
marked Romance, Larghetto. Rubinstein’s playing has all
the romantic grace of a prima ballerina slowly floating by on
points. Elsewhere in both concertos Rubinstein’s powerful
personality, his sense of refinement, grandeur and poetry pervades
every bar of these historic recordings.
By the way, Chopin’s writing for orchestra is often dismissed.
The long proud orchestral introduction to the first movement
of the E minor Concerto immaculately played by the London orchestra
surely disproves any such notion.
Classic recordings of the two Chopin Concertos in immaculate
SACD sound. Highly recommended.