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Anton Rubinstein: Piano Music, Vol. 2 / Joseph Banowetz

Rubinstein / Banowetz
Release Date: 07/27/2010 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8570942   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Anton Rubinstein
Performer:  Joseph Banowetz
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 15 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

A. RUBINSTEIN Sérénade russe. 2 Melodies, op. 2. Souvenir de Dresde, op. 118. Romance and Impromptu, op. 26. Akrostikon No. 1, op. 37 Joseph Banowetz (pn) NAXOS 8.570942 (75:21)

Recently, I reviewed Joseph Banowetz’s Read more first volume of music by Anton Rubinstein, declaring myself ripe for more at the end of it. Well, here is Volume 2, a mix of the new (five of the six movements of Souvenir de Dresde are world premiere recordings—No. 6 was recorded by Leo Sirota and is available on the Arbiter label—as are the Romance and Impromptu , the Sérénade russe, and the Akrostichon No. 1). Volume 1 contained music from 1871–90; this presents works written 1852–94. I also mentioned in my earlier review that only the Melody in F has gained the favor of the catalog, and here in fact it is, played with unaffected simplicity by Banowetz and bringing in tow its lesser-known companion, a Melody in B, a work of supreme delicacy. Rubinstein uses single-line melody to great effect, and Banowetz plays with supreme dignity and maturity.

The disc begins with a work minus opus number. The Sérénade russe was written around 1852, and was composed for a publication named L’Album Bellini . The melancholy feel of the work seems entirely Russian. Banowetz ensures that the lightenings of texture and mood register to maximum effect, and that the Lisztian arabesques contain hints of improvisation.

The sublime sweetness of the first movement of Souvenir de Dresde (1894) draws one into the work. This movement’s title is, in fact, “Simplicitus.” The music opens out into sequences of roulades (dispatched with remarkable ease by Banowetz). In contrast, the second movement, marked “Appassionata,” uses Brahmsian sonorities to bring a contrastive disquiet. Annotator Joshua Creek suggests that the opening of the third movement, “Novelette,” is pastiche Rameau, and it is easy to hear what he means. The movement is a delight. A light, almost Mendelssohnian Caprice leads to an extended Nocturne where the shadow of Chopin can be clearly felt. Drama is the characteristic of the final Polonaise. Banowitz does not quite project the full sweep of the piece, perhaps.

Dripping, slow descending lines that one might expect to encounter in late Brahms begin the Romance from op. 26. Rubinstein’s offering turns out to be a simple but expressive song without words, its melody exquisitely shaped by Banowetz. The Impromptu makes for effective contrast in its playful, busy nature. Finally, Akrostikon No. 1 (written around 1856). Each movement is headed by a letter, which when put together spell “LAURA” (Laura Shveykovskaya, a young lady evidently admired by the composer). All five movements are remarkably stress-free, liquid outpourings. Any hints of disquiet in the fifth movement (Con moto) are dismissed in the quasi-improvised final movement, a clear Lied ohne Worte.

Once again, Banowetz has succeeded in alerting the record buying public of the importance of Anton Rubsinstein’s music while simultaneously providing playing of the utmost clarity and beauty.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Sérénade russe in B minor by Anton Rubinstein
Performer:  Joseph Banowetz (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1879 
Melodies (2) for Piano, Op. 3 by Anton Rubinstein
Performer:  Joseph Banowetz (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1852; Russia 
Souvenir de Dresde, Op. 118 by Anton Rubinstein
Performer:  Joseph Banowetz (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1894 
Pieces (2) for Piano, Op. 26: no 1, Romance in F major by Anton Rubinstein
Performer:  Joseph Banowetz (Piano)
Pieces (2) for Piano, Op 26: no 2, Impromptu in A Minor by Anton Rubinstein
Performer:  Joseph Banowetz (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1858 
Akrostichon no 1, Op. 37 by Anton Rubinstein
Performer:  Joseph Banowetz (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1856 

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