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CD Review

Artur Rubinstein Plays

Artur Rubinstein, piano
Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI/André Cluytens
Orchestra A Scarlatti di Napoli della RAI/Franco Caracciolo
Arts Archives 43081-2 DDD 80m
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The bad news is that neither orchestra here is especially distinguished. Neither is an embarrassment, but Rubinstein's studio recordings feature more tonally alluring partnerships. That said, the elder pianist is on excellent form for this generous program from Italian Radio sources.

Rubinstein was nothing short of an astonishing Brahms player, and his studio recordings of this concerto are all special in different ways. This 1962 reading is well-recorded, and full of personality. Sure, the strings are nothing to write home about, but the overall product is a winner. André Cluytens is also more inspired as a partner here than in his rather indifferent collaborations with great pianists (Gilels and Shostakovich, especially) on EMI. He inspires the RAI Torino forces to contribute some fine solo playing, and the slow movement is beautifully sung out by all involved.

Once past a shaky opening from the pianist, the improved sonic qualities of the Schumann under Franco Caracciolo are instantly apparent. The RAI Napoli orchestra is also a more polished group, though not by enough to be worthy of great praise. The wind playing here is perky and well-projected, and the string section is an asset. Though still not a stereo recording, the acoustic is a more realistic and favorable one. Most importantly of all, Rubenstein is magnificent. As noted above, the opening solo is somewhat sloppy, and the same could be said of the beginning of the finale. Everything else is about as poetic and lovingly shaped as you could wish for, with an exceptionally fine middle Intermezzo. The monaural issue is a non-issue, and anyone who cares about the piano should give this a try.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman