Wednesday, 30 August 2017

CD Review (The Straits Times, August 2017)

   CHOPIN Piano Music
    RCA Red Seal BVCC-37236 / *****
   Piano Concertos
    Blue Moon Music 108 / *****

The name of Polish pianist Arthur Rubinstein (1886-1982) will be fondly remembered by an older generation of music lovers. Like Lang Lang today, he was the piano superstar of yesteryear, one who charmed audiences with his charisma and expressive qualities. Unlike his erstwhile rival Vladimir Horowitz who was nervous and highly strung, Rubinstein oozed confidence and largesse, projecting the impression that playing for his fans was pure joy and pleasure. 

His great musical love was Chopin, and this compilation of his compatriot’s assorted piano pieces – Four Impromptus, Barcarolle, Berceuse, Andante Spianato & Grande Polonaise, and the rarely heard Trois Nouvelles Etudes, Tarantella and Bolero - provides great satisfaction.

Rubinstein was also peerless in Romantic concertos, the playing being large-scaled, often tugging on the heartstrings but never seeking cheap or sentimental effects. This compilation by Blue Moon Music brings together his justly celebrated recordings of Grieg’s Piano Concerto (1961, conducted by Alfred Wallenstein) and Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto (1956, with Fritz Reiner). 

Even the encore segment is enticing: Schumann’s Romance (Op.28 No.2), Liszt’s Valse Oubliee No.1, Prokofiev’s March from The Love For Three Oranges, Villa-Lobos’s Polichinello and de Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance. Here is piano playing on a grand scale.     

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