van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor Appassionata, Op.
57 (1804-05) [23:34] Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Intermezzo No.2 in B flat minor Op.117 [4:50] Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Carnaval Op.9 (1835) [26:45] Fryderyk CHOPIN(1810-1849) Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23 (1836) [9:25]
Etude in E minor Op.25 No.5 (1837) [3:15] Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Hungarian Rhapsody in C sharp minor S244 No.12 [9:59] Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
A Prole do Bebę – Book 1 – O polichinelo (1918) [2:06]
rec. live, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, 20 April 1963 MEDICI
ARTS MM029-2 [80:45]
live in recital invariably brought an extra frisson to performances.
Late in his performing life, the frisson was not unconnected
with digital accidents, though the fire still burned brightly
well into his eighties. But this Nijmegen concert was taped
in 1963 and it finds the pianist in incendiary form. Speculation
as to why his playing was so tensile that day includes his
acknowledged nervousness at performing in a town so near
the German border – he refused to play in Germany after the
War - or maybe, as so often, it was a combination of events
or circumstances, or indeed none at all.
fact remains that this is Rubinstein in scintillating form.
The Appassionata receives a performance of powerful
commitment and intense drama. Expressive in the slow movement,
vital and passionate in the finale it hitches a ride of palpable
near-combustion without transgressing musical bounds. The
result is a traversal of fulsome communicative force, perfectly
controlled and canalised.
this comes the Brahms Intermezzo which Rubinstein plays with
the wisest of heads, fusing surety of direction with intimacy
of expression – and adding a delicacy and refinement that
gives the tonal shores of the music great warmth. Schumann’s
Carnaval is the centrepiece of the programme. This is dispatched
with great personality – though there are some textual quirks
and Rubinstein can personalise to a degree what others tend
to enfold into the flux of the writing. Dynamics and rhythmic
matters are the main bones of contention – but set against
this we have playing brimful of generosity and affection,
positively galvanic in places in the Préambule where
Rubinstein’s rubati are pronounced but never gauche. Chopin is
predictably ravishing; indeed the whole performance is a
vindication of the recital.
It’s apt that two pieces by Chopin
should follow. The G minor Ballade is magnificently structured
and dynamic. Rubinstein’s tonal palette is broad and vivid,
the playing full of unostentatious panache. So too in the
Etude. To finish we have a sizzler – Liszt’s C sharp minor
Hungarian Rhapsody, a really coruscating and brilliant performance
revealing a technique seemingly unruffled by its many demands.
The encore is a piece he often performed: Villa-Lobos’s O
first class stereo sound this makes a serious claim on even
the most ardent, albeit penurious Rubinstein adherent. I
can’t recall a live performance by the pianist to equal it.
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