BACH: Italian Concerto; BRAHMS: Four Pieces for Piano; A. RUBINSTEIN: Melody in F; PROKOFIEV: Piano Sonata No. 4; D. RUBINSTEIN: Sonatina – David Rubinstein, p. – Musicus

by | Apr 14, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

BACH: Italian Concerto in F Major, BWV 971; BRAHMS: Four Pieces for Piano, 
Op. 119; A. RUBINSTEIN: Melody in F, Op. 3, No. 1; PROKOFIEV: Piano Sonata No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 29 “From Old Notebooks”; D. RUBINSTEIN: Sonatina for Piano “Classical Forms” – David Rubinstein, piano – Musicus M 1007, 62:18  [ ]  ***:
David Rubinstein (b. 1949), a New York City pianist who currently lives in Los Angeles, sports a sound technique and a broad musical culture. The  inscriptions performed here date from 25-27 March 2010. Rubinstein claims Claudio Arrau and Willam Masselos as his mentors. He plays a vibrant and thoughtful Bach “Italian” Concerto, the second movement of which proceeds intimately without sag, the extending musical line taut and cantabile. The playing proves competent, even virtuosic, but I cannot call it mesmerizing or electrifying.  The Presto enjoys a full brisk sonority, plastic phrasing, and clean articulation, the last bars ringing to a satisfying sense of closure.
I find the B Minor Intermezzo, Op. 119, No. 1 played rather glibly to suit my taste; it lacks mystery. Rubinstein’s upper register projects a hard, harsh patina, although his measured approach in the latter pages works better. The shifting textures of the E Minor Intermezzo appeal to Rubinstein, but his marcato tread feels heavy for the surreal agitation the piece can intimate. The E Major middle section softens the affect and invokes that “rainy day” sensibility that marks late Brahms. The hemiolas of the C Major Intermezzo proceed in plastic style, but the piece lacks the light hand and the affectionate wit some other pianists bring to it. The dry acoustic limits the impact of the E-flat Rhapsody, a martial exercise in five-bar phrases and sonata-form. The stentorian approach softens for the grazioso section, though the piano sound creates a honky-tonk sonority that might well suit a barbershop quartet. The late pages here acquire some liquid color, and Rubinstein’s pedal aids immeasurably.
The little Melody in F by Anton Rubinstein (1858) used to grace the programs of Josef Hofmann. Hofmann brought a natural rubato to this charming salon piece that I miss here. This pianist reminds me of a gifted actor whose efforts seem too much predicated on what is required, “academic” or “pedagogical” rather than inspired: the difference in quality between William Shatner and Spencer Tracy. Oddly, Rubinstein’s “method” playing works exceedingly well for the “experimental” aspects of Prokofiev’s 1917 Fourth Sonata, its alternately strutting and faltering melodic line achieving an ungainly grace that rings with orchestral, even diaphanous sonorities and sardonic convulsive gestures. The often affecting lyricism of the second movement Andante–with its ominous repeated chords–makes a high point in this thoughtful performance. Nice gradations of touch and articulation mark the muscularly energetic last movement.
David Rubinstein composed his Sonatine (2009) in response to the F-sharp Major Sonatine of Maurice Ravel. Playfully martial, it demonstrates something of Prokofiev’s acerbic wit and rhythmic insistence. “Quietly expressive” provides the marking for the music-box sonorities of the second movement, a paean to Ravel’s elegant clarity of line. The last movement, “Quite fast,” asks for toccata pianism, an etude certainly, for sustained wrist action and clear articulation in syncopation. Striking staccati and rapid figures collide and then stop on a musical dime.
— Gary Lemco

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