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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Frédéric Chopin - Polonaises; Andante spianato et Grande Polonaise (Arthur Rubinstein)


Composer: Frédéric Chopin
  1. Polonaise No. 1 in C-sharp minor, Op. 26, No. 1
  2. Polonaise No. 2 in E-flat minor, Op. 26, No. 2
  3. Polonaise No. 3 in A major, Op. 40, No. 1 "Military"
  4. Polonaise No. 4 in C minor, Op. 40, No. 2
  5. Polonaise No. 5 in F-sharp minor, Op. 44
  6. Polonaise No. 6 in A-flat major, Op. 53 "Heroic"
  7. Polonaise-Fantasie in A-flat major, Op. 61
  8. Andante spianato et Grande Polonaise in E-flat major, Op. 22: Tranquillo
  9. Andante spianato et Grande Polonaise in E-flat major, Op. 22: Allegro molto - Meno mosso

Arthur Rubinstein, piano
Date: 1964
Label: RCA



The F sharp minor Polonaise receives a staggeringly great performance, its epic scale encompassing fervent patriotic aspirations, desperate initiatives and aching nostalgia. Thereafter the "Heroic" Polonaise is proudly presented, the Polonaise-Fantasie ranges from poetic meditation (no pianist has matched Rubinstein in filigree passage-work such as that which opens this piece) and passionate sweep and the Andante spianato and Grand Polonaise provide respectively the opportunity to enjoy Rubinstein's unique singing tone over a rippling accompaniment and the scintillating accuracy of his fingerwork even in advanced age.

Up to that point I have to confess I hadn't enjoyed myself so very much. Rubinstein was by this time very much one of music's elder statesmen and one senses the responsibility he felt in committing to disc a just and faithful version of music which was especially close to his heart. Alas, like some of Klemperer's last performances, everything is spelt out so deliberately that the effect is marmoreal and static. In the 2nd Polonaise I agree with everything he does, but if only he'd get on with it! And is he not too dry in much of the "Military" Polonaise (op.40/1) and positively lethargic in the C minor?

A comparison with the original LPs shows that the sound has been improved enormously. Gone is the bright clanginess and the engineers have even found degree of bloom hitherto unsuspected.

Rubinstein was once invited to award the marks at the final exams of the Paris Conservatoire. After a while it was noticed that he always awarded either 20 (the maximum) or zero. Asked why, he replied "either they can play or they can't". According to this I should award my 5 for performance on the spot, but since I lack Rubinstein's divine simplicity I award: Performance: 1-4 4 stars, 5-8 5 stars, Recording 3 and a half stars.

-- Christopher Howell, MusicWeb International

More reviews:


Frédéric Chopin (22 February or 1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era who wrote primarily for the solo piano. He gained and has maintained renown worldwide as one of the leading musicians of his era, whose "poetic genius was based on a professional technique that was without equal in his generation". Chopin's music, his status as one of music's earliest superstars, his association (if only indirect) with political insurrection, his love life and his early death have made him a leading symbol of the Romantic era in the public consciousness. His works remain popular, and he has been the subject of numerous films and biographies of varying degrees of historical accuracy.


Arthur Rubinstein (January 28, 1887 – December 20, 1982) was a Polish American classical pianist. He received international acclaim for his performances of the music written by a variety of composers and many regard him as the greatest Chopin interpreter of his time. He was described by The New York Times as one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century. He played in public for eight decades. All of his RCA recordings have been released on compact disc and amount to about 107 hours of music. Since his death, several labels have issued live recordings taken from radio broadcasts.


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