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Symphonies 1, 2, 3

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Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894)
Piano Concerto No.2 in F major, Op.25 (1851) [39:05]
Piano Concerto No.4 in D minor, Op.70 (1864) [37:33]
Alexander Paley (piano)
State Symphony Orchestra of Russia/Igor Golovchin
rec. December 1993, Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory
DELOS DRD 2013 [76:48]

Anton Rubinstein’s Piano Concertos have held a loose grip on the outer fringes of the repertoire and it’s only the Fourth that has really maintained any sort of presence in the catalogues. The Second, on the other hand, is a work more read about than heard. It was written in 1851 and suits Alexander Paley and Igor Golovchin – who has recorded a slew of Rubinstein’s orchestral music - very well indeed. Paley’s control of the intense lyricism and dramatic virtuosity embedded in the concerto’s romanticism is admirable. There is plenty of Russian colour in the second movement, which has poetry, elegance and extensive piano soliloquies, noble rolled chords and fine tunes. The finale has bravura and is thankfully not taken at too moderato a tempo, which would have dampened the ardour here, as it did in the slightly earlier recording of this concerto by Joseph Banowetz on Marco Polo. I certainly enjoyed Paley’s nonchalant virtuosity and the buoyant support of the State Symphony Orchestra of Russia.
Similar qualities can be found in the Fourth Concerto, Rubinstein’s most famous concerto, indeed probably his most authoritative large-scale composition, though not to nearly the same degree. Once again I prefer this combination to the slightly slacker Banowetz and Stankovsky, though there’s not, in truth, much in it. There is certainly plenty of expressive and reflective playing from Paley but he sometimes takes this to excess and Rubinstein’s lyricism is converted into near-stasis. Whilst I appreciate his point of view, which is surely to promote the work’s highly articulate introspection, what this misses is its more visceral quality. For that you need to turn to Lewenthal and Carvalho, in a recording that yo-yos in and out of the catalogue, and then to real old timers such as Levant and Mitropoulos (brilliant) and Hoffmann with Reiner and also with Krueger, equally indispensable, both live recordings on Marston 52044-2 in a two-disc set devoted to the great pianist. These last named may be off-air or in elderly sound, but they seem to occupy a wholly different athletic and aesthetic experience from the more genteel and sleepy practitioners of today.
The Moldavian pianist Alexander Paley, long resident in the United States, made this recording back in 1993 and it was first released on Russian Disc RDCD11 360, so don’t be confused by the 2012 Delos date on the back of the jewel box.
Jonathan Woolf