, February 2013
Entirely new to the CD medium comes a 17 March 1963 British studio recital by the legendary Arthur Rubinstein (1887-1982), whose charisma at the keyboard set a standard of consistent musicality and beguiling lyricism for three generations.
For the first movement Allegro con brio, Rubinstein instills a high polish and fervent gloss, with well-articulated trills and solid landings on cadences.
Rubinstein typically presents adagios with tender significance: no exception here, in which Beethoven exploits a lovely chorale-like tune in E Major and E Minor. A rondo of sorts, the movement provides an emotional heart for a piece otherwise modeled after Haydn but here emphatic and nuanced with particular romantic color. Rubinstein asserts strong accents in the Scherzo, a brisk, frisky (even canonic) romp that gravitasates between C Major and C Minor. Light feet realize Beethoven’s hearty intentions for the Allegro assai, with Rubinstein’s tossing off pearly runs and contrary-motion scales with warm authority.
Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales (1911) constitutes the major Ravel in Rubinstein’s repertory, since he did not perform Gaspard e la Nuit, at least not on records. Taking his cue from Franz Schubert, Ravel called his opera the “delicious and ageless pleasure of a useless occupation.” Rubinstein accords each of the eight dances an easy glittering grace, marked by their slightly askew chordal progressions and pearly runs.
The program concludes with three Chopin works well familiar to the Rubinstein legacy, of which the Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise in E-flat Major provides a “bonus” from a session 17 March 1963. After the pointillistic sonorities in Ravel, the Chopin D-flat Major Nocturne sounds like the peal of comforting bells and chimes, realized by a temperament at once refined and exquisitely sensual. The G Minor Ballade, whether conceived as program music after Mickiewicz or as absolute music in a Neapolitan sensibility, has for Rubinstein great poise and suave dramatic transitions. The little waltz that becomes self-obsessive achieves a haunted mystery in Rubinstein’s playing, plastic and rife with explosive tension. Rubinstein negotiates its tricky metric shifts and double octaves with a debonair grace whose lyrical component, ever, leaves us singing even if we may have wept along the way. © Audiophile Audition Read complete review