MediciArts MM029-2 , 80:45 [www.medici.co.uk] **** [Distr. by Naxos]:
No doubt that we receive our money’s worth from this glorious recital by an inflamed Artur Rubinstein (1887-1982), recorded live in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, 20 April 1963. An acutely nervous vitality marks the Appassionata from the outset, so by the time Rubinstein arrives at the third movement‘s hectic runs, the impetus hardly slows in spite of his taking the repeat. If noble introspection characterizes the rainy-day sentiments of the Brahms intermezzo a debonair, extrovert’s panache infiltrates every bar of the often breakneck Carnaval, long a Rubinstein signature-piece. Rubinstein does not prettify his Schumann, and the angular, sudden impulses in Pierrot, Florestan, Papillons, and Arlequin scramble before us in motley, eccentric colors. A grand leisure, however, manages to exert its tender presence in pieces like Valse noble, Eusebius, Aveu, Estrella. A passionate love story unfolds in the course of Schumann’s infinite varieties of alter ego. Chiarina throws herself at us, while Chopin basks in a penumbra of romantic wistfulness. The flashy, virtuoso etudes, like Reconnaissance, Pantalon et Columbine, Valse allemande–Paganini, alternately tumble and cavort in deft colors. The March of the Davids-League becomes an unabashed, punishing crusade, often brushing the Philistines aside unapologetically. The sweep and brio of the rendition quite knock over the audience like tenpins.
The Chopin G Minor Ballade, in several Neapolitan respects the composer’s answer to Beethoven’s Appassionata, breathes and rages under perfect control, Rubinstein’s sonority, silken arpeggios, and left-hand articulation miracles of stylistic experience. A remarkable tension ensues that keys on the Neapolitan sixth chord and unleashes a poetic furor, a storm of declamation and rhetorical energy. Rubinstein’s ironic non-legato in the E Minor Etude finds an elegant foil in the tender roulades of its middle section. Liszt’s 12th Rhapsody permits the seventy-six-year-old Rubinstein’s natural flair an impressive vehicle for bravura, colored by all sorts of ritards, graduated music-box trills, and shaded pedaling. Connoisseurs will place this eminently wild and idiomatic reading alongside their trophies from Bachauer, Levitzky, and Bolet. The Master himself announces his pungent encore, Punch, from Villa-Lobos’ own concept of the Commedia dell’Arte. At the last feverish glissando, a dazzled audience erupts into appreciative ecstasy.