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Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody; Falla, Chopin / Rubinstein, Reiner

Release Date: 10/14/1997 
Label:  Rca Victor Living Stereo Catalog #: 68886   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Sergei RachmaninovManuel de FallaFrédéric Chopin
Performer:  Artur Rubinstein
Conductor:  Fritz ReinerEnrique JordaAlfred Wallenstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony OrchestraSan Francisco Symphony OrchestraSymphony of the Air
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Here’s an absolutely wonderful collection of masterpieces for piano and orchestra featuring the inimitable Arthur Rubinstein at the absolute top of his game. His recording of Rachmaninov’s Paganini Rhapsody with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony used to be coupled to the same composer’s Second Piano Concerto, logically I have to say, but this selection if presents the work in a way that only enhances its stature by way of contrast, and thus our appreciation of Rubinstein’s (and Reiner’s) sterling musical qualities. It’s not just the virtuosity of the piano playing or the precision of the orchestral accompaniment: there’s also such character built into each variation, culminating in the best ever account of the work’s closing pages. Read more />
This version of Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain is also Rubinstein’s best, arguably. He has every bit as much command of the idiom as did Alicia de Larrocha, who supposedly “owned” the work. Rubinstein was in the audience at the piece’s 1916 premiere, and while some listener’s may prefer his first version from 1949, available in the Rubinstein complete edition, this one offers the finest combination of performance and engineering, with Enrique Jorda and the San Francisco Symphony providing excellent support. It’s an interpretation full of atmosphere, but totally devoid of impressionist fog in the negative sense. Rhythms are clear, and the textures sparkle. When asked for a reference recording of the work, this is probably the one I would turn to most often.

Finally, Rubinstein and Chopin are practically synonymous, and since we never get to hear the Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise in concert as a feature work for piano and orchestra (it’s not much shorter than Prokofiev’s First Concerto), it represents a substantial bonus that rounds out the program with an irresistible flourish. This is a terrific memento of a great artist in his prime, and you’ll feel privileged to own it.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini, Op. 43 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Artur Rubinstein (Piano)
Conductor:  Fritz Reiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1934; USA 
Nights in the gardens of Spain by Manuel de Falla
Performer:  Artur Rubinstein (Piano)
Conductor:  Enrique Jorda
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1915; Spain 
Andante spianato et Grand polonaise brillante in E flat major, Op. 22 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Artur Rubinstein (Piano)
Conductor:  Alfred Wallenstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Symphony of the Air
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1830-1831; Vienna, Austria 

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