I was talking to a well known critic recently who told me that
he thought that Rubinstein Ďwas an especially bad pianistí.
Some critics have binary minds: A is good; B is bad, and so
on. I doubt anything in this disc can serve to redirect a closed
mind or one prone to melodramatic flourishes. Still, it should.
This is a truly beautiful performance of the B flat major concerto.
Itís never been issued before, which makes its appearance in
ICA Classics livery, ex WDR Cologne broadcasts, all the more
valuable. Naturally there will be those who point to Rubinsteinís
discography and note that, in addition to the fast and loose
1929 78 set with Albert Coates, we already have the 1958 Krips
and the later 1972 Ormandy studio recordings. So indeed we do.
But when a performance is as convincing as this one, and so
well taped too, then one could wish for a legion of live performances
I worried that his first entry was too loud, but my ear soon
adjusted and this despite the fact that the microphone is rather
too close to the piano than is ideal for a really good balance.
Almost immediately though one notices the excellent rapport
between soloist and conductor. Rubinstein had known Christoph
von DohnŠnyiís father, so maybe that was a contributing reason
Ė but I think rather that solid musicianship must have accounted
for the notably fine ensemble, though in fairness one must note
itís not wholly watertight. Rubinsteinís sure sense of rubato
is evident in the second movement, and the slow movement has
a marvellous sense of chamber collaboration about it, not just
the nobly restrained cello solo, or Rubinsteinís musing responses
but later too, when the oboe, cello and piano entwine so wonderfully.
The finale is galvanizing and outstanding too Ė pedants will
note a few smudged passages, but the rest of us can listen to
a performance of wonderful poise and purpose, at the end of
which one feels both grateful, and happy.
The remainder of the programme comes from a solo recital Rubinstein
gave in Nijmegen in 1963. Other items from this performance
have been released before but this quintet of pieces is making
its first ever appearance. He shows a commanding control over
the rhetoric of Brahmsís Rhapsody, marrying passionate drama
with reflective intimacy, but never at the expense of the musicís
spine. Chopinís Nocturne is possessed of texture and colour
and the most subtle of rubati. The waltz is suffused with Rubinsteinís
charm. After a brief announcement, in German, he launches into
a truly daemonic rendition of de Fallaís Ritual Fire Dance.
This brings the disc to a volcanic end. Itís a treasurable one,
offering lasting virtues, and performances of subtlety, warmth