Original Jacket Collection - Arthur Rubinstein Plays Chopin
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Notes and Editorial Reviews
To several generations of music lovers, Arthur Rubinstein and Frédéric Chopin were one and the same, and it's entirely fitting for Sony/BMG to lavish "Original Jacket" treatment upon the beloved pianist's complete solo stereo Chopin recordings for RCA Victor. Rubinstein was well aware that these sessions constituted a legacy, and he took care to ensure the highest possible level of textual integrity and technical accuracy, abetted by producer Max Wilcox's sharp ears (some musicians cynically describe Wilcox's attention to detail as "The Max Factor", yet it was Rubinstein, not Wilcox, who gave final approval).
Granted, Rubinstein's stereo Chopin often lacks the fire, audacity, and athleticism
of his earlier (albeit more cavalier) shellac and mono LP traversals. Yet the technical and sonic advantages speak for themselves, to say nothing of Rubinstein's thoughtful, generous artistry. His Polonaises retained their earlier swagger, but with more focus and solidity this time around. The Mazurkas took on greater breadth and reflection, with markedly different yet equally valid results in comparison to Rubinstein's two earlier cycles. As for the Ballades and Scherzos, I refer readers to my positive comments in an earlier review.
I prefer Rubinstein's edgier late 1940s Nocturnes to his more even-handed, unruffled stereo remakes, but the stereo Waltzes remain a point of reference, along with the B minor sonata. One disc replicates a late 1980s RCA Gold Seal reissue featuring Rubinstein's atypically angular and brusque 1946 Preludes (his only complete recording of this opus) alongside contemporaneous readings of the B-flat minor sonata, Barcarolle, and Berceuse, all of which the stereo remakes supercede. Sonically speaking, the stereo items barely (if at all) differ from their Complete Rubinstein Edition counterparts. In sum, this body of work constitutes a safe, time-tested musical investment, and should Sony/BMG's "Original Jacket" packaging appeal to you, don't hesitate.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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