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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11 [40:29]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor Op. 21 [30:06]
Arthur Rubinstein (piano)
New Symphony Orchestra of London/Stanislaw Skrowaczewski (1)
Symphony of the Air/Alfred Wallenstein (2)
Rec. 1961 (1); 1958 (2). ADD. DSD. SACD
BMG-RCA RED SEAL LIVING STEREO 82876 67902 2 [70:45]

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.

Ian Lace

 

 


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