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Frederic CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Arthur Rubinstein - The Chopin Recordings
CD 1: Piano Concertos, Waltz op. 64 Nocturnes 1-3
CD 2: Nocturnes 4-19
CD 3: Waltz op. 34 no. 1 Mazurkas 1-32
CD 4: Mazurkas 33-51 - scherzos
CD 5: Barcarolle, Berceuse, Polonaises, Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante
Artur Rubinstein (piano)
London Symphony Orchestra/John Barbirolli (concertos)
rec. London, 1928-1939. mono. ADD
full track-listing at end of review
EMI CLASSICS ICON 4553342 [5 CDs: 389:34]

Experience Classicsonline
These 80+ year old recordings are well enough known and many collectors of longstanding will already have them in previous issues. They are mono and fall into the historic category. That they document Rubinstein before he moved to RCA is important and that they catch him between the ages of 41 and 52 makes them of great interest. They deserve reissue time and again as new generations step forward. Rubinstein’s fine touch is evident in the middle movement of the first concerto. It’s breathtaking and despite the hortatory Stanfordian blast that Barbirolli gives to the orchestra at the start the poetry is well worth catching as is the soloist’s signature blend of quicksilver and aristocracy.

For generations past these recordings would have been the avenue for immersion in and familiarisation with Chopin. With 2009 and the 150th anniversary of the death behind us this remains more than a footnote but less than a first recommendation given the historical nature of the sound. In the creation of atmosphere and weight of expression middle-aged Rubinntein still has much to communicate and as the C sharp op 27 no 1 Nocturne shows us the results can be richly rewarding even if the sound is limited in range and prone to close-up distortion.

In the case of the mazurkas the hiss is pretty emphatic despite the 1938-39 vintage and the recording at Abbey Road. Also the warbling and growling fortissimo in the op. 30 no 3 d flat mazurka is a further limitation. Rubinstein can however transcend such things for ears that have a predisposition to sympathy. The four scherzos are particular favourites. I recall 'learning' them from a Radio 3 broadcast I had taped. Rubinstein put his finger on their fire and episodic drama and in doing so reminds me how much Saint-Säens owes to Chopin in the five concertos and how much Scriabin owed him in his one voluptuously romantic concerto. The last disc of the five wonderfully introduces the Berceuse - again emphasising Fauré's debt to Chopin. The Héroïque Polonaise is there in all its plangent luxury and up-flooding power. One can hear what all the fuss was about. The brief notes are by Max Harrison.

EMI was farsighted in recording so much Chopin with Rubinstein in the 1930s. These recordings are for new generations of Chopin devotees and are not to be disdained just because of their age and mono technology. General collectors may prefer something more recently recorded but those with curiosity and tolerant ears will find much here to remind people what Rubinstein was like. If analogue stereo is not an obstacle then there are various Rubinstein Chopin collections on RCA-BMG.

To add further to the experience do read Rubinstein’s two volume autobiography: My Young Years (1973). and My Many Years (1980).

No sonatas and no etudes but here is vintage Chopin from one of the idolised greats of the keyboard.

Rob Barnett

Track listing
Disc 1:
Piano Concerto No.1 in E minor Op.11 (1992 Digital Remaster)
1 I. Allegro maestoso 15:39
2 II. Romanze (Larghetto) 9:28
3 III. Rondo (Vivace) 8:12

Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor Op. 21 (1992 Digital Remaster)
4 I. Maestoso 10:58
5 II. Larghetto 8:80
6 III. Allegro vivace 7:35

7 No. 7 in C sharp minor Op. 64 No. 2 (1992 Digital Remaster) 3:27

Nocturnes (1992 Digital Remaster)
8 No. 1 in B flat minor Op. 9 No. 1 4:52
9 No. 2 in E flat Op. 9 No. 2 4:27
10 No. 3 in B Op. 9 No. 3 4:47

Disc 2:

Nocturnes (1992 Digital Remaster)
1 No. 4 in F Op. 15 No. 1 3:48
2 No. 5 in F sharp Op. 15 No. 2 4:00
3 No. 6 in G minor Op. 15 No. 3 4:11
4 No. 7 in C sharp minor Op. 27 No. 1 4:50
5 No. 8 in D flat Op. 27 No. 2 6:16
6 No. 9 in B Op. 32 No. 1 4:40
7 No. 10 in A flat Op. 32 No. 2 4:50
8 No. 11 in G minor Op. 37 No. 1 4:51
9 No. 12 in G Op. 37 No. 2 6:33
10 No. 13 in C minor Op. 48 No. 1 4:40
11 No. 14 in F sharp minor Op. 48 No. 2 4:43
12 No. 15 in F minor Op. 55 No. 1 4:39
13 No. 16 in E flat Op. 55 No. 2 4:31
14 No. 17 in B Op. 62 No. 1 6:50
15 No. 18 in E Op. 62 No. 2 4:59
16 No. 19 in E minor Op. 72 No. 1 (posthumous) 4:40

Disc 3:

Waltzes (1993 Digital Remaster)
1 No. 2 in A flat major Op. 34 No. 1 ('Valse brillante') 3:51

Mazurkas (1993 Digital Remaster)
2 No. 1 in F sharp minor Op. 6 No. 1 1:58
3 No. 2 in C sharp minor Op. 6 No. 2 2:25
4 No. 3 in E Op. 6 No. 3 1:46
5 No. 4 in E flat minor Op. 6 No. 4 0:23
6 No. 5 in B flat Op. 7 No. 1 2:10
7 No. 6 in A minor Op. 7 No. 2 2:47
8 No. 7 in F minor Op. 7 No. 3 2:32
9 No. 8 in C Op. 7 No. 4 0:56
10 No. 9 in C Op. 7 No. 5 0:34
11 No. 10 in B flat Op. 17 No. 1 2:14
12 No. 11 in E minor Op. 17 No. 2 2:30
13 No. 12 in A flat Op. 17 No. 3 4:50
14 No. 13 in A minor Op. 17 No. 4 4:16
15 No. 14 in G minor Op. 24 No. 1 2:20
16 No. 15 in C Op. 24 No. 2 2:10
17 No. 16 in A flat Op. 24 No. 3 1:57
18 No. 17 in B flat minor Op. 24 No. 4 3:59
19 No. 18 in C minor Op. 30 No. 1 1:32
20 No. 19 in B minor/F sharp minor Op. 30 No. 2 1:18
21 No. 20 in D flat Op. 30 No. 3 2:33
22 No. 21 in C sharp minor Op. 30 No. 4 3:30
23 No. 22 in G sharp minor Op. 33 No. 1 1:23
24 No. 23 in D Op. 33 No. 2 2:20
25 No. 24 in C Op. 33 No. 3 1:30
26 No. 25 in B minor Op. 33 No. 4 4:27
27 No. 26 in C sharp minor Op. 41 No. 1 3:10
28 No. 27 in E minor Op. 41 No. 2 2:60
29 No. 28 in B Op. 41 No. 3 1:50
30 No. 29 in A flat Op. 41 No. 4 1:57
31 No. 30 in G Op. 50 No. 1 2:12
32 No. 31 in A flat Op. 50 No. 2 2:27
33 No. 32 in C sharp minor Op. 50 No. 3 4:31

Disc 4:

Mazurkas (1993 Digital Remaster)
1 No. 33 in B Op. 56 No. 1 3:40
2 No. 34 in C Op. 56 No. 2 1:23
3 No. 35 in C minor Op. 56 No. 3 4:50
4 No. 36 in A minor Op. 59 No. 1 3:18
5 No. 37 in A flat Op. 59 No. 2 2:24
6 No. 38 in F sharp minor Op. 59 No. 3 3:12
7 No. 39 in B Op. 63 No. 1 2:20
8 No. 40 in F minor Op. 63 No. 2 1:45
9 No. 41 in C sharp minor Op. 63 No. 3 2:12
10 No. 42 in G Op. 67 No. 1 1:70
11 No. 43 in G minor Op. 67 No. 2 1:25
12 No. 44 in C Op. 67 No. 3 1:35
13 No. 45 in A minor Op. 67 No. 4 1:46
14 No. 46 in C Op. 68 No. 1 1:34
15 No. 47 in A minor Op. 68 No. 2 2:45
16 No. 48 in F Op. 68 No. 3 1:25
17 No. 49 in F minor Op. 68 No. 4 2:20
18 No. 50 in A minor Op posth ('A son ami Emile Gaillard') 2:60
19 No. 51 in A minor Op. posth ('Notre temps') 3:10

4 Scherzos (1993 Digital Remaster)
20 No. 1 in B minor Op. 20 8:18
21 No. 2 in B flat minor Op. 31 8:12
22 No. 3 in C sharp minor Op. 39 6:26
23 No. 4 in E Op. 54 9:33

Disc 5:

1 Barcarcolle in F sharp major Op. 60 (1993 Digital Remaster) 8:20

2 Berceuse in D flat Op. 57 (1993 Digital Remaster) 4:12

16 Polonaises (1993 Digital Remaster)
3 No. 1 in C sharp minor Op. 26 No. 1 6:56
4 No. 2 in E flat minor Op. 26 No. 2 7:40
5 No. 3 in A major Op. 40 No. 1 ('Military') 3:36
6 No. 4 in C minor Op. 40 No. 2 4:49
7 No. 5 in F sharp minor Op. 44 9:22
8 No. 6 in A flat major Op. 53 ('Heroic') 6:13
9 No. 7 in A flat major Op. 61 ('Polonaise-fantaisie') 11:49

Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise brillante in E flat Op. 22 (1993 Digital Remaster)
10 Andante spianato 0:10
11 Grande polonaise 0:10

 


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