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 Not available in the USA.

CD: Crotchet
Download: Classicsonline

Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano concerto no.1 in E minor, op.11 (1830) [38:29]
Piano concerto no.2 in F minor, op.21 (1830) [28:29]
 Arthur Rubinstein (piano)
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra/Alfred Wallenstein (concerto no.1)
NBC Symphony Orchestra/William Steinberg (concerto no.2)
rec. Carnegie Hall, New York City, 25 March 1946 (concerto no.2); Republic Pictures Studios, Hollywood, 12 December 1953 (concerto no.1)
 NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111296 [66:58] 
Experience Classicsonline

I arrive at this latest Rubinstein-Naxos disc fresh from a brilliantly bracing Medici live recital from the pianist. If proof were ever needed of the vitality of a concert fraught with potential traps but surmounted with superb musicality then this is it (see review). With Naxos's disc we return to the more placid waters of studio encounters.
Which is not to decry the quality of the music-making, because this disc conjoins the so-called 'mid-period' Rubinstein recordings of the two Chopin concertos, commercial recordings made seven years apart.
The First Concerto was recorded in 1953 on the West Coast with the LAPO and that occasional tyrant Alfred Wallenstein, though doubtless he extended no tyrannical behaviour towards his distinguished soloist. As ever we have the Rubinstein recorded balance to contend with, in which - familiar to most, doubtless - the piano receives an over-generous amount of air time, helping to subsume orchestral counter-themes and wind lines. Nevertheless on this occasion quite enough detail emerges from the serried ranks of the Los Angeles orchestra to provide interest in a performance long on poetic finesse from the soloist. This is mitigated, it's true, by the balance which seldom allows gradations of dynamics to register and this is a serious liability in the slow movement which sounds over projected at some points, notwithstanding the translucent beauty of Rubinstein's phrasing.
The Second Concerto sees him join forces with William Steinberg and the NBC, a recording made in 1946. We notice immediately the duller, drabber orchestral sound. Rubinstein's very first entry is too loud and this is a pre-condition of auditory entry to this kind of disc. Once accepted the pleasure to be derived from the pellucid and rapt playing is inestimable. Elegance and panache are two stock words one can apply to much of the playing and fortunately some of the wind lines are more audible than one might initially fear, at least until the finale. The grand seigniorial control of the finale is vitality itself - but the winds here are dull sounding, unfortunately.
The transfers do all they can with these problems but short of artificially re-balancing things, all one can do is present the material as well as possible, something that's been carried out here.
Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Rob Maynard

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