Arthur Rubinstein Later Recordings

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Thomas J
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Arthur Rubinstein Later Recordings

Post by Thomas J » Wed Nov 29, 2006 8:03 pm

I'm presently listening to Rubinstein's performances of Chopin. "Ballades, Scherzos and Tarantelle" on the RCA Red Seal label recorded in the late 1950's. The performances are awesome and the sonics, incredible. Now I realise, some of his best performances are on his earlier recordings. That said, at the moment I'm interested in his later recordings strictly because of the sonics. So play along with me for the moment and through out a few recommendations for his later recordings which in your mind are still worthy performances. Thanks.

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Post by Werner » Wed Nov 29, 2006 8:09 pm

Glad to see you back here, Thomas!

I'm sorry I have nothing specific to recommend at the moment, except to share your enthusiasm for Rubinstein - pretty much throughout his career. It's hard do go wrong with Rubinstein. True, there were people who were greater technical wizards, and there were greater and deeper Beethoven or Schubert interpreters. That does not negate he fact that we was one of the great pianists and musicians of his or any day, and anything he did was (and is) worth hearing.
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Holden Fourth
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Post by Holden Fourth » Thu Nov 30, 2006 6:04 am

Like Beethoven, Rubinstein appears to have had three periods - two mono and one stereo. Like Beethoven, he was consistently good and while some will argue that the best of AR was in his first period (1930s - mainly for EMI), second period (1950s) or his stereo period - both RCA - you can be quite satisfied with recordings from any of these eras.

His Chopin is peerless and any of his recordings mastered by Max Wilcox from the late 50s and early 60s is worth getting. Obviously you've got his 50s Scherzos and Ballades and if you're happy then don't get his 60s version which is just as good - relatively speaking.

Rubinstein owns the Nocturnes IMO and you just can't beat the 60s version.

Getting off Chopin, Rubinstein was no mean LvB performer and his 1945 Appassionata just has to be heard to be believed. In fact, any of his LvB sonatas are worth getting but as he recorded these a number of times then shop around for the best performances.

One of my favourite CDs is ARs Schumann where he plays Fantasiestucke Op 12 and Carnaval Op 9. Likewise a recital of Spanish works is just astonishing.

But the best of all for me is his live performance in Moscow in October 1964, a virtual all Chopin recital that just crackles with excitement and is one of my desert island discs. I'd also recommend any of his LvB PC4 recordings.

AR was both a consummate and universal musician and just about anything he recorded was excellent and I've yet to touch on his chamber recordings.

Enjoy your exploration of this magnificent pianist - many riches await at the end of the quest!

Thomas J
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Post by Thomas J » Thu Nov 30, 2006 5:53 pm

Thanks Holden for the recommendations. I'll take note of them. I've seen the Rubinstein Nocturnes available here stateside for only 11.99 for the 2 cd set. These are the 1965 recordings and they have been remastered as well. Sounds like a slam dunk here.
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Post by Barry » Thu Nov 30, 2006 5:56 pm

I've always loved his last set of Chopin waltzes from the 60s.
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Post by Wallingford » Thu Nov 30, 2006 6:12 pm

His Israel recital, from the mid-70s, showed that he could hit infinite fistfuls of wrong notes (partly from blindness?) and still sound greater than practically all the rest.
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Lance
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Post by Lance » Sat Dec 02, 2006 1:47 am

Well, I'm an Artur Rubinstein fanatic and have been all my life. I have his complete commercial recorded output and around 90% or more of live performance recordings. For me, Rubinstein was the god of the piano. I have rarely been disappointed in anything he has recorded. I had the good fortune to hear him many times in live concerts, and to meet and talk with him on a couple of occasions. He was kind enough to pose with me a photograph that I have always treasured.

If I had to select one recording that I was not particularly fond of, made in the twilight of Rubinstein's years, it would be the British Decca recording of Brahms' Piano Concerto #1 in d, Op. 15 with the Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta. It was the last commercial concerto recording he ever made (April 1976) though he did make one more solo commercial recording for RCA after that (Schumann Fantasiestücke, Op. 12 and Beethoven's Piano Sonata, Op. 31/3). The Brahms concerto is just a bit too stodgy and drawn out for me, and I think Rubinstein was having vision problems around this time. [If it's this Brahms Concerto #1 you want with him, I would direct you to the first one he made with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony, recorded in 1954 (mono only, but superb sound/balance). Another was made in between these two, in 1964, with the Boston Symphony under Leinsdorf, but the Reiner, aside from one out-of-tune note on his Steinway, is the performance of a lifetime even though the conductor and pianist, personally, had little tolerance for one another; musically they were entirely compatible.]

If you are seeking some of Rubinstein's best, I'd go for the complete Beethoven piano concertos with Joseph Krips conducting the Symphony of the Air (the old NBC Symphony) on RCA (recorded 1956 in true stereophonic sound). He recorded an integral set three times, one with the Boston Symphony under Erich Leinsdorf (recorded 1967), and again with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Daniel Barenboim (1975) [these two were great friends despite their huge difference in years]. My second choice would be the Boston Symphony/Leinsdorf.

Another must-have is Rubinstein's Schumann Fantasiestücke, Op. 12, which he recorded four times. It's the 1962 version that, for me, is the best of them all from every musical point of view, with ravishing piano tone and superb recording acoustics. Also his first recording of the Schubert Sonata in B-flat, Op. Posth., recorded in 1965, and issued only on compact disc, allows us to hear a Rubinstein that I didn't know existed but certainly felt lurked there somewhere. (Schubert's music is quite a contrast to Chopin!) RCA issued the 1969 re-recording of the work on LP and CD, but as producer Max Wilcox noted, the earlier recording, after re-hearing it upon Rubinstein's death, was rich in sentimental/magical musical qualities and perceptions that the later inscription didn't have. One might not normally connect Rubinstein with Schubert, but in this case, it is very special and it was authorized by Rubinstein's family - to be issued after they heard the original tapes.

And of course, Rubinstein's Chopin Nocturnes (complete, stereo version on RCA), the Ballades and Scherzos, Waltzes, Polonaises, Mazurkas [all RCA stereo versions, not the earlier EMI], and the two piano concertos along with an incredible rendering of the Fantasia on Polish Airs, Op. 13 with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Ormandy would all be at the top of the list. It will probably be for his Chopin alone that Rubinstein will be longest remembered but in not searching/listening further, people would be missing much from his art if they didn't investigate the other repertoire.

By the time you really becoming taken with Artur Rubinstein's playing, you will probably want to track down his 92-CD "Edition," which is the treasure of a lifetime!

Please keep me up to date on what you are acquiring of Rubinstein. All of that "edition" has been issued independently, disc-by-disc, though one item (a live recital) has not been made available independently of the big edition.
Lance G. Hill
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Thomas J
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Post by Thomas J » Sat Dec 02, 2006 11:54 am

Thanks Lance. I knew at some point you'd chime in with your recommendations. I've already been on Amazon's website and many folks there concur with your recommendations. I'll keep you up to speed on any future purchases and my impressions of them. Thanks again.

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Post by Lance » Sat Dec 02, 2006 8:20 pm

Thomas J wrote:Thanks Lance. I knew at some point you'd chime in with your recommendations. I've already been on Amazon's website and many folks there concur with your recommendations. I'll keep you up to speed on any future purchases and my impressions of them. Thanks again.
My pleasure, Thomas. I'm so glad you're back amongst us! Please do keep me informed on your Rubinstein acquisitions. I've got more any time you're interested! :)
Lance G. Hill
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Post by Thomas J » Tue Dec 12, 2006 7:43 pm

Just an update. I just ordered these recordings based on your recommendations. I'll post my impressions hopefully at a later date. Thanks again everybody!

Chopin, 19 Nocturnes
Chopin: Waltzes & Impromptus (Remastered)
Beethoven, Piano Sonatas

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Post by miranda » Fri Dec 15, 2006 11:35 pm

I have the Rubenstein Chopin Nocturnes disc set, and i love it. There's no one else I'd rather hear playing Copin than Rubinstein.

I also have a disc of him playing some Brahms--Cello Concertos, I think (I haven't listened to it in a while--might be time to remedy that).

What a wonderfully gifted artist he was! His playing always delights me, and makes me think...and really, what more can you ask of good music than that?
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anasazi
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Post by anasazi » Sat Dec 16, 2006 12:45 am

I just finished watching "The Art Of Piano" DVD, on loan from my library. There was a lot of fascinating footage of many famous pianists, from Hoffmann to Gould. About my chief disappointment was there was no film footage of Rachmaninoff playing, and that so many other great pianists were entirely missing from the DVD.

I realize the producers have only limited money to spend and there are only so many vintage video clips of the greats, but Rubinstein got about three minutes in this 100 minute DVD. Small change, but it was about the only three minutes that actually got my attention. It was more than just the notes, he was making music. I think it was the cadenza from the 4th piano concerto (Beethoven).

A shame I thought that they couldn't find more video of Rubinstein. With his very long and active concert schedule I would have thought more could have been included.

I just discovered a new DVD on Amazon of three concertos, performed with Previn and the LSO that were made just about a year of so before Rubinstein retired. Has anyone else seen this? Included are the Grieg, the Chopin #2 and I believe the Schumann concertos. I'm kind of anxious to see this DVD. Has anyone seen it and can recommend it?

I don't believe any pianist is going to be able to tackle everything in the reportory to perfection. I do admire Rubinstien a lot for what he could do, although he probably was not my favorite artist of the time. He certainly was consistently good however, for 80 years or so.
"Take only pictures, leave only footprints" - John Muir.

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Post by Donald Isler » Sat Dec 16, 2006 12:55 am

Well, fortunately there's www.youtube.com. If you put in its search function "Rubinstein Chopin Heroic Polonaise" it will give you at least three different performances by him. And there's lots of other good stuff there to be enjoyed. I plan to have my students look at some of these.
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Post by ch1525 » Sat Dec 16, 2006 2:00 am

Wow! I had no idea this DVD existed. I think I might have to get it!

Did you order it yet, anasazi? You'll have to tell us how it is.

<a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000FV ... ACK">Grieg, Chopin & Saint Saens Piano Concertos / Previn, Rubinstein, London Symphony Orchestra</a>
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anasazi
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Post by anasazi » Sat Feb 03, 2007 1:01 am

ch1525 wrote:Wow! I had no idea this DVD existed. I think I might have to get it!

Did you order it yet, anasazi? You'll have to tell us how it is.

<a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000FV ... ACK">Grieg, Chopin & Saint Saens Piano Concertos / Previn, Rubinstein, London Symphony Orchestra</a>
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Yes, finally got it (just not for Christmas) :( Finally had time to sit down and listen to each concerto, so this is only my feeling after one listen.

This is a lovely DVD. I would rate it well worth it's small price.

It has a very good audio, sounds very good indeed. The balance between the LSO and Rubinstein was just perfect for my ears. Not distant, but a well-defined, fairly close sound, neither orchestra nor piano completely dominating but both with a clear presence. I don't think it ever gets much better in concerto recordings.

The performances suited me. I'm not a huge fan of the Saint-Saens, so I have not heard that one as much. Yet I would rate it the second best, the Grieg third, the Chopin first, on this DVD. But that's really splitting hairs however, as they are all three really superb. The Chopin is better than the really excellent live performance I recently heard last fall.

It is difficult to believe that Rubinstein was nearly blind at the time of this recording (1975), but only in the third movement of the Chopin did he even seem to look down at his hands, if I'm remembering correctly. He does look in Previn's direction somestimes for the cue - I wondered how much he could see, but but did have some peripherial vision I've read.

Most concerto DVD's show either the soloists' hands or face, or the conductors, or maybe an instrumentalist in the orchestra, and this was about the same. Nothing any fancier than that. But still, it was worth it for me (a pianist) to see Rubinstein at work, close up. The manner in which he seemed to use minimal energy to produce such lucidly clear results from the instrument. You can really appreciate the remakable dexterity he had in his hands, especially his third and fourth fingers.

This all seemed to me like real music making, not just a run-through or a job. All three concerti feature performances that rival any CD I own.

If you're interested in Rubinstein, or piano concertos at all, grab this DVD while it's still available.
"Take only pictures, leave only footprints" - John Muir.

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Post by CharmNewton » Sat Feb 03, 2007 10:55 am

Lance wrote:[If it's this Brahms Concerto #1 you want with him, I would direct you to the first one he made with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony, recorded in 1954 (mono only, but superb sound/balance).
This performance was recorded in stereo and released in that form in the late LP era, and I'd be surprised if the mono recording was issued in the Rubinstein Collection. It's also now available in a hybrid SACD edition in the Living Stereo series.

This recording was long available in its mono format (LM-1831), and at the time of its first stereo release c. 1973, the reviewer commented on what sounded like slightly different takes being used at times in the new version over the old one.

John

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Post by Lance » Sun Feb 04, 2007 1:00 am

CharmNewton wrote:
Lance wrote:[If it's this Brahms Concerto #1 you want with him, I would direct you to the first one he made with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony, recorded in 1954 (mono only, but superb sound/balance).
This performance was recorded in stereo and released in that form in the late LP era, and I'd be surprised if the mono recording was issued in the Rubinstein Collection. It's also now available in a hybrid SACD edition in the Living Stereo series.

This recording was long available in its mono format (LM-1831), and at the time of its first stereo release c. 1973, the reviewer commented on what sounded like slightly different takes being used at times in the new version over the old one.

John
Rubinstein recorded the Brahms Piano Concerto #1 in d, Op. 15 three times, comercially:

[1] April 17, 1954 w/Chicago Symphony, Reiner, conductor
[2] April 21/22, 1964 w/Boston Symphony, Leinsdorf, conductor
[3] April 1976 w/Israel Philharmonic, Z. Mehta, conductor

John is absolutely right, the one with Reiner was recorded in stereo on RCA Red Seal ARL1-2044, the first-ever stereo issue. I lived for so long with LM-1831, published in 1955, that I nearly forgot about the stereo reissue, which, in The Rubinstein Collection, appeared on Volume 34, CD 63034. It was later made available on RCA's "Living Stereo" series in an SACD-hybrid as 66378. Timing in at around 46 minutes, this was the only music available on this SACD, and at a list price of $12.99/USD, still a bargain at any price.

Of this 1954 Brahm D Minor, New York Times critic Harold C. Schonberg stated: "... the most palatable and exciting Brahms First ever recorded." (The pianist hardly thought so ... see the last paragraph of this post.)

Here is what the liner notes of LP ARL1-2044 say: "This recording was one of the first made by RCA in stereo. Two separate sets of recording equipment were used with individual microphone placement for both the stereo and monaural versions. The monaural album was released in January 1955 (LM-1831). By the time that all recordings were being issued in stereo, Mr. Rubinstein had done the concerto again, with Erich Leinsdorf and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In reviewing early stereo recordings, this one — made in Orchestral Hall, Chicago, on April 17, 1954 — was found to be of unusually high quality; because of this and in view of the continuing interest in this performance, the stereo version is now being issued." [It would appear that, based on all available information and evidence, the original mono and stereo versions are the same performance, not of alternate takes.]

Rubinstein's second recorded version, as noted above with Leinsdorf and the Boston forces, was first issued on LP as LSC-2917 and is now contained in Volume 59 of The Rubinstein Collection, CD 63059].

The last and final recording of the work made by Rubinstein was issued by London Records on LP as CS-7018 (1976), and again as JL-41069 (reissued 1983 in the "Jubilee" series of LPs). That performance is now contained in Volume 81 of The Rubinstein Collection, CD 63081.

Annotator Harris Goldsmith pointed out in his liner notes for the Brahms First Piano Concerto, with Reiner and the Chicago: "Rubinstein affirms that his 1976 recording ... (on [Decca]/London Records) 'turned out to be by far the most satisfactory of all my previous attempts,' but by any reasonable criteria, the Rubinstein/Reiner/Chicago Symphony Orchestra collaboration is a classic." [No doubt the inclusion of Reiner and the Chicago continue to make this the most highly collectible recording of the work ever made, despite one badly out-of-tune note on Mr. Rubinstein's Steinway, for which I have never forgiven him!]
Lance G. Hill
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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