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Rubinstein: Caprice Russe; Piano Concerto No 5; Der Thurm Zu Babel Overture / Mitchell, Zamparas

Rubinstein / Zamparas / Mitchell
Release Date: 11/27/2012 
Label:  Centaur Records   Catalog #: 3204   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Anton Rubinstein
Performer:  Grigorios Zamparas
Conductor:  Jon Ceander Mitchell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



RUBINSTEIN Piano Concerto No. 5, Op. 94. Caprice russe, Op. 102. Der Thurm zu Babel, Op. 80: Overture Grigorios Zamparas (pn); Jon Ceander Mitchell, cond; Bohuslav Martin? PO CENTAUR 3204 (74:55)


The fifth and last of Anton Rubinstein’s piano concertos was composed in 1874. Dedicated to the French pianist and composer Charles-Valentin Alkan (misspelled Read more “Arkan” in Centaur’s notes), it is by far the longest of Rubinstein’s works in this genre, comparable in duration if not stature to the concertos of Brahms. The first movement alone lasts over 22 minutes in this performance, with a total timing of 50 minutes. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Rubinstein chose the same key for this work, E?-Major, as did Beethoven for his “Emperor” Concerto. That lengthy first movement is a grand, expansive, often rhapsodic statement, although as is usual with Rubinstein, there is too much repetition. The slow movement strikes me as rather perfunctory, but the brilliant, exuberant finale, at 17 minutes nearly as long as the first movement, offers considerable pleasure. The performance by Grigorios Zamparas is straightforward, crisp, fluent, and technically proficient. He does not quite match the brilliance, forcefulness, and spontaneity that pianists such as Joseph Banowetz and Marc-André Hamelin have brought to other Rubinstein concertos, although he does contribute some pretty impressive rapid passagework. Hamelin, however, has not recorded this concerto, and the Banowetz reading, on Marco Polo, is currently available only as an MP3 download. I have not heard it, but the Marco Polo catalog is gradually being transferred to Naxos, so Banowetz may eventually be available again on CD. On the other hand, the Centaur recording, although a bit dry and unreverberant, is better focused and balanced and more realistic than the Marco Polo series, and the piano sound is solid and well defined. Peaks have plenty of impact and are free from strain or harshness. No other recordings of this concerto are currently available.


The Caprice russe , an appealing 20-minute fantasy for piano and orchestra on three folk or folk-like themes, was written in 1878. Zamparas once again offers a straightforward and proficient performance, perhaps lacking a degree of the flamboyance that Rubinstein’s music seems to demand. The only other recording of this piece in the catalog is that of Banowetz, also coupled with his performance of the Fifth Concerto and therefore available only as an MP3. Rubinstein’s “sacred opera” Der Thurm zu Babel (The Tower of Babel), one of several he wrote on biblical themes and to German librettos, dates from 1869. Its brief overture is deliberate and brooding but uneventful. No other recordings of the overture and none of the opera itself are available.


Under Jon Ceander Mitchell, the Bohuslav Martin? Philharmonic shows itself to be a capable and proficient ensemble, although lacking the tonal opulence of some more famous orchestras. The violins, at least as recorded here, can sometimes seem thin and steely, but the winds are reliable, more so than in the Slovak orchestra used in the Banowetz recordings of the first four concertos. (A different Slovak orchestra performs in the Fifth Concerto.)


In the absence of any current competition on CD, I can recommend these accomplished and well-recorded performances to anyone interested in Rubinstein’s music.


FANFARE: Daniel Morrison
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Piano no 5 in E flat major, Op. 94 by Anton Rubinstein
Performer:  Grigorios Zamparas (Piano)
Conductor:  Jon Ceander Mitchell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; Russia 
2.
Caprice russe for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 102 by Anton Rubinstein
Performer:  Grigorios Zamparas (Piano)
Conductor:  Jon Ceander Mitchell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Russia 
3.
Der Thurm zu Babel, Op. 80: Overture by Anton Rubinstein
Conductor:  Jon Ceander Mitchell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: Russia 

Sound Samples

Caprice Russe (Russian Capriccio), Op. 102
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 94: I. Allegro moderato
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 94: II. Andante
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 94: III. Allegro
Der Thurm zu Babel, Op. 80: Overture

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