David Rubinstein, In Recital Vol. 3 = HAYDN: Sonata in D; DEBUSSY: Suite Bergamasque; RUBINSTEIN: Four Obsessions; Ideas & Images for Piano – David Rubinstein, p. – Musicus

David Rubinstein, In Recital Vol. 3 = HAYDN: Sonata in D, Hob. XVI: 19; DEBUSSY: Suite Bergamasque; RUBINSTEIN: Four Obsessions; Ideas & Images for Piano – David Rubinstein, p. – Musicus Recordings M 1010, (3/26/15) 58:33 [DavidRubinstein.net] ****:

David Rubinstein (b. 1949), a pupil of George Kochevitsky, William Masselos, and Claudio Arrau, enjoys programming miniature recitals of a few selected works. This recital (10 December 2014) concentrates on three composers, including Rubinstein himself. The piano sound production – recorded at Entourage, North Hollywood, CA – has the benefit of audio engineering by Zavosh Rad.

The opening work, Haydn’s Sonata No. 19 in D Major (1767), impresses us in both brilliant staccato and highly ornamental effects in its Allegro, which proves lengthy and grandly expressive. The aggressive, percussive filigree – hinting at a sturm und drang sensibility – finds some balance in chromatic runs and fluttering melodic tissue that makes sport of the Alberti conceits. Rubinstein attributes the texture of the second movement Adagio to the influence of chamber music. The alternation of short and long notes over a resounding bass line marks much of its progress, although some of melodic contour has a dainty parlando character. The last movement Allegretto gives us jabbing-motif theme and variations in diverse touches, some of which savor of witty double-notes. Much of the music could be attributed to Mozart, especially in tune with own Rondo alla Turca.

Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque (1905) needs little introduction, given the universal popularity of its slow movement, Clair de Lune. As a liquid foil to the assertive percussion of the Haydn, the suite provides a good contrast. Rubinstein does not attempt to emulate Walter Gieseking in his approach to the Debussy palette; if he resembles anyone with his hard patina, it might be George Copeland. The Prelude assumes bell-like tones and a brilliant wash of keyboard sound. The Menuet, too, rings with clarion tones, and Rubinstein’s bass line asserts itself in striking entries. Unsubtle at times, the performance does salute the Debussy capacity for defined keyboard voicing. Rubinstein allots good breathing room to Debussy’s Moonlight, and perhaps this music allows Rubinstein to relax and trust his natural legato. The final Passepied – a bit too marcato for my tastereverts to non-legato left hand figuration, rather fixated in its rhythmic insistence.

The nine pieces by David Rubinstein himself date from 1991-2014, various miniatures and late-night excursions from the subconscious that last between one and three minutes. Insomnia runs in “obsessive” circles, its resonance reminiscent of Ravel. Obsession has the acerbic dry wit of Satie. The Reverie, too, has a French affect, a pseudo-waltz we might attribute to Auric or Ibert. Reveille presents us a post-Stravinsky wake-up call that George Antheil might enjoy. Serious Thought feels like an askew cross between Gershwin and moments of Mussorgsky. Cricket Nocturne, a study in minimalist rhythm, moves along a resonant modal scale. The bluesy Quick Steps might share impulses with Stravinsky’s Piano Rag in a martial mode. How much Starry Night relates to Van Gogh remains uncertain, but the sonority has much of Debussy and his own love of gamelan sonority. The last piece, Reflection, likes to play against itself, so Bach lies behind the pearly vibrant tones.

—Gary Lemco

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