Rubinstein Collection Vol 55 - Beethoven, Schubert
Rca Victor Red Seal
Ludwig van Beethoven
Number of Discs:
1 Hours 6 Mins.
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Works on This Recording
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Ponderous Beethoven and Fussy Schubert December 22, 2011
By T. Drake (South Euclid, OH) See All My Reviews
"William Hupfer, for many years Steinway's chief piano tuner, liked to use baseball analogies when talking about pianists. Vladimir Horowitz, said Hupfer, was like Babe Ruth, hitting a home run. Arthur Rubinstein, on the other hand, was more like Lou Gehrig, always dependable, playing every day he was scheduled. Rubinstein's "batting-average" as a pianist was extraordinarily high - he seemed suited to a very wide range of music. Although he is successful in many of the works of Beethoven and Schubert elsewhere in this collection, this disc represents his occasional shortcomings. The Beethoven Sonata, Op. 2, No. 3 is lacking two elements crucial to this early work: charm and humor (which is ironic given that Rubinstein was a famously charming man who loved to laugh and inspired others to). Rubinstein's playing throughout is rather bogged-down, ponderous, and lacking in imagination. Another consistent problem is a rather heavy-handed touch and the lack of a true pianissimo - most likely the result of the pianist's failing hearing. The wit of Kempff's version, with cannilly timed false cadences and sly left-hand anticipations, is sorely missing. Rubinstein seldom played this Sonata in public (he much preferred the Appassionata, which was better suited to him) and listening to this recording one can imagine why. Rubinstein had a troubled relationship with Schubert's final Piano Sonata. He attempted a recording in the Autumn of 1963, just before embarking on a concert tour which featured the work. His conception of the work changed during the tour, and in the spring on 1964, he tried again in Carnegie Hall. But Rubinstein and his producer, Max Wilcox, were dissatisfied with the piano's tone. A third recording, made at RCA's Italiana Studios in Rome in 1965 satisfied pianist and producer, but was held back because Rubinstein wished to add more music to the LP. Finally, in 1969, Rubinstein tried again. However, the morning of the session, the pianist had a very upsetting telephone conversation with his oldest son, Paul, which preceded an estrangement which lasted until the pianist's death in 1982. It is hard to blame Rubinstein, then, for sounding distracted in this version. The phrasing does not flow, rubato seems contrived, and the performance as a whole fails to cohere. The Scherzo is a case in point, where the pianist brings the tempo to a near halt in the trio. There are also several technical baubles, including a badly clotted chord near the climax of the first movement. While preparing Rubinstein's recordings for their first CD release in 1986, Max Wilcox pulled the tape of the 1965 version and immediately realized it was a far better performance. That was the performance released, with the permission of Rubinstein's widow, on CD in 1987. The 1965 version is available on Volume 54 of the Rubinstein Collection. I realize that there are some who prefer the 1969 recording, and it is prescient of the more recent interpretive approach to Schubert as a quasi-Mahlerian death obsessed composer. Without denying that Schubert suffered at the end of his brief life, I reject that revisionist approach. Incidentally, for those who keep track of these matters, Rubinstein does not play the first movement repeat on either of his recordings. No complaints about the sound, but due to the aforementioned performance issues, this CD is for Rubinstein completists only."