SCHUBERT: Piano Sonata in A Major, D. 959; Sixteen German Dances, D. 783/D. 366 – David Rubinstein, piano – Musicus

by | Jul 21, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

SCHUBERT: Piano Sonata in A Major, D. 959; Sixteen German Dances, D. 783/D. 366 – David Rubinstein, piano – Musicus M 1006, 57:29 [] ****:

David Rubinstein is a New York pianist–a protégé of Claudio Arrau and William Masselos–who plays and records from his own Shadow Hills, California studio on a 12-foot grand piano. His Schubert 1828 A Major Sonata conveys breadth and thoughtful, persuasive intensity. The second movement in F-sharp Minor remains the great expressive moment in this piece, with its recitativo musings and Bach polyphony that reaches a searing heat in C-sharp Minor. Rubinstein meets its emotional and digital demands in conscientious and poetic style. The lithely deft articulation for the C Major Scherzo proves Rubinstein a master of the Schubert idiom, a plastic lyricism that extends into the ever-flowing Rondo: Allegretto finale. Pellucid and sensitively proportioned, this performance bespeaks an artist of maturity and architectural security in his chosen repertory. While Rubinstein tends to some “academic” tendencies in his playing, this need not be construed as harsh criticism, since this kind of intellection is no less evident in consummate players like Charles Rosen.

Schubert’s miscellaneous collections of German Dances (c. 1823-1824), Minuets, Ecossaises, Galopps, Waltzes, Laendler, and Cotillons provide an harmonic labyrinth and infinite source of melodic and rhythmic invention for pianists in much the same way that the mazurka serves Chopin. A happy combination of improvisation and studied harmony, the German Dances embrace the heroic and the folk impulse at once, dovetailing into each other like graceful currents of a deep river of lyrical celebration. Rubinstein’s instrument seems a bit heavy for some of the pieces–a more diaphanous Hammerfluegel or Erard period instrument might better serve–but the bittersweet nostalgia of the pieces rolls off the keyboard in fertile sequence under Rubinstein, who attaches the fifteen dances from D. 783 to Laendler No. 17 from the collection, D. 366. The tenderly energetic sentiments, connected as they are to all sorts of agogic subtleties, makes for ceaselessly fascinating listening.

— Gary Lemco

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