Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Sergei Rachmaninov; Manuel de Falla; Frédéric Chopin - Works for Piano & Orchestra (Arthur Rubinstein)


Composer: Sergei Rachmaninov; Manuel de Falla; Frédéric Chopin
  • (01-26) Rachmaninov - Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini
  • (27-29) Falla - Nights in the Gardens of Spain
  • (30-31) Chopin - Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise, Op. 22

Artur Rubinstein, piano
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Fritz Reiner, conductor (1-26)
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Enrique Jordá, conductor (27-29)
Symphony of the Air
Alfred Wallenstein, conductor (30, 31)

Date: 1956, 1957 & 1958
Label: RCA



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.

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

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Sergei Rachmaninov (1 April [O.S. 20 March] 1873 – 28 March 1943) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. He is widely considered as one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music. His style is notable for its song-like melodicism, expressiveness and his use of rich orchestral colors. The piano is featured prominently in Rachmaninoff's compositional output, and through his own skills as a performer he explored the expressive possibilities of the instrument.


Manuel de Falla (23 November 1876 – 14 November 1946) was a Spanish composer. He attended the Real Conservatorio de Música y Declamación, studied piano with José Tragó and composition with Felipe Pedrell. His first important work was the one-act opera "La vida breve". Among his best known works are two ballets ("El amor brujo" and "El sombrero de tres picos") and the nocturne for piano and orchestra "Nights in the Gardens of Spain". With Isaac Albéniz and Enrique Granados he is one of Spain's most important musicians of the first half of the 20th century.


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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