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CD: Crotchet

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat minor op. 83 [47:15]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Concerto in A minor op. 54 [32:24]
Artur Rubinstein (piano)
Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI/André Cluytens (Brahms)
Orchestra A Scarlatti di Napoli della RAI/Franco Caracciolo (Schumann)
rec. 4 May 1962 RAI, Torino (Brahms); 22 April 1964, RAI, Napoli (Schumann). ADD
ARTS ARCHIVES 43081-2 [69:39]
Experience Classicsonline

Artur Rubinstein (1887-1982) was born in Poland, became a US citizen and died in Switzerland. He wrote three colourful volumes of autobiography. I first heard and remembered him from broadcasts of the 1970s RCA LP of Saint-Saëns 2 and de Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain. His memory is deeply engraved in the record catalogue through his much-reissued Chopin recordings. He envied Horowitz his keyboard technique but ultimately achieved his own accepted greatness among the pantheon of 20th century artists alongside Gilels, Heifetz and Oistrakh. RCA accorded him a Rubinstein Edition.
What we have here is a well-matched coupling of two romantic concertos played in live concert by one of the high priests of the romantic school of pianism. They are in mono and feature very little hiss yet this achieved seemingly without blunting the treble aspects of the signal. The tone of piano and orchestra is not ideally clean but we are talking RAI broadcast mono of 47 and 43 years ago. It's perfectly listenable and the mind soon reconstructs the missing aspects. Indeed the music-making quickly draws you in. We should remind ourselves that when he gave these broadcasts in his beloved Italy Rubinstein was respectively 75 and 77. I am pleased to report that applause is included in both cases but you must also ‘endure’ a speckle of coughing. It’s a small price to pay.
In the case of the Brahms we hear an interpretation of a lyrical and playful caste of mind. The tragic, though far from absent, is subordinate but grandeur is not in short supply when demanded. Rubinstein's Schumann is more stormy and seems more congenial than his Brahms. Was Caracciolo a more sympathetic collaborator than Cluytens, I wonder? In any event Rubinstein seems totally at home and completely and sincerely ingratiating. The recording of the Schumann also sounds purer in tone than the Brahms – something  about the acoustic, I suspect. The thoughtful and grave way in which Rubinstein sculpts phrases in the last movement's peroration at 9:53 onwards is deeply satisfying – one of many such examples.
Good liner-notes are on offer from Bettina Schröm and they are well translated into English.
Rob Barnett


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