David's Review Corner
, March 2010
Naxos has already issued Arthur Rubinstein’s 1935/6 recording of the Polonaises in performances that many leading Chopin experts consider as definitive. So why would you want his 1950/51 remake? Well, for a start, those brought up listening to high definition sound will find this version more satisfying to the ear. And what of Rubinstein? His technique was undiminished and he now had the benefit of detailed editing. There was still the imaginative freedom of phrase that makes his rivals seem stiff and awkward by comparison, and though he took liberties in rhythm that extends way past Chopin’s markings, he also knew full well where it was imperative to keep strict control to heighten the moment, those repeated notes in the left hand that jack-up the excitement in the middle section of the Sixth never having been more meticulous. There also remains that willingness to let his fancy take him where it wants, phrases rushed into with the impetuosity you would expect from youth, though he was now less prone to dwell on moments of beauty, and at times I feel he despatches demanding passages with a degree of nonchalance, as if to show his bravura is unchanged by advancing years. But we are, of course, contrasting Rubinstein with Rubinstein and whichever version you select, they are readings that you must have. Both recordings include a sparkling and dancing Grande Polonaise to follow on a tender approach to the Andante spianato. They have been lovingly transferred for this new release, though for some reason the sound on the Sixth Polonaise is not quite as good as the remainder.