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"This is amazing - the most amazing dvd of piano performance I have seen. The sound is adequate, the video in poor black and white - but...it is magical. Rubinstein is enchanting and majesterial in his performance. This is as close to time travel as any of us are going to come. I actually think the camera angles are superb - even if the images are not as sharp as I would like.
The performances are incredible - you can't believe anyone can play this way - heavenly.
Here's the program...
Chopin: Polonaise No. 5 in F sharp minor, Op. 44
Impromptu No. 3 in G flat major, Op. 51
Nocturne No. 8 in D flat major, Op. 27 No. 2
Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35 'Marche funèbre'
Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op. 60
Étude Op. 25 No. 1 in A flat major 'Aeolian Harp'
Étude Op. 25 No. 5 in E minor
Étude Op. 10 No. 4 in C sharp minor
Étude Op. 10 No. 5 in G flat major 'Black Key'
Waltz No. 3 in A minor 'Grande Valse Brillante', Op. 34 No. 2
Polonaise No. 6 in A flat major, Op. 53 'Héroïque'
If you play the piano - love piano music - this is a must have performance. If I could have only one dvd...this would be it.
sorry to gush - but this is amazing...
Archival Footage of Rubinstein at 77
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 02/21/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Caveat: I grew up a complete fan of Rubinstein. In my day you were either for Horowitz or for Rubinstein. I never had any doubts. And when I heard him the first time at age ten I was so overwhelmed I went home and told my teacher I wanted to learn the whole program he'd played. She relented enough to allow me to learn Villa Lobos's O Polichinello (Polichinelle, or Harlequin) and it became one of my party pieces until well into my adulthood. So, of course, I have collected a great deal of Rubinstein on record. And on DVD, too. The sparse notes for this issue -- a filmed record of a recital Rubinstein performed in 1964 in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory -- make it sound like its value is in the fact that live recordings of Rubinstein are rare, but that's just not true. Just look at what's on offer here at Amazon, e.g. Artur Rubinstein in Concert, and you'll realize that their statement is puffery. Still, this is a valuable record of Rubinstein's playing in his late 70s; he clearly still had chops and although there are occasional dropped or smudged notes, the Rubinstein magic is all there.
The recital proper is entirely music by Chopin, and of course it for Chopin that Rubinstein was best known. I still think he's one of the absolute masters of that Polish master. The recital opens with a magisterial Polonaise in F sharp minor, Op. 44, and the recital proper closes with the 'Heroic' Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53 in a barnburner of a performance. Rubinstein's dizzying left-hand octaves are still there! Mood-painting is not neglected, either. The D flat major Nocturne, op. 27, No. 2 is like moonlight. The Barcarolle in F sharp minor, Op. 60, is sheer poetry. The highlight of the four included études is the A flat major, Op. 25, No. 1, which whirls by in a flash. (Interesting fact: Rubinstein never played all of the études, possibly for reasons of technique.) But the real highlight of the Chopin group is the Second Piano Sonata in B flat minor, Op. 25, the so-called 'Funeral March' sonata. He does not dawdle over the funeral march movement, unlike some, but still conveys its grave mood. The whirlwind final movement may be slightly over-pedaled but its eeriness still raises goosebumps.
Four encores follow: Des Abends (Evening) from Schumann's Fantasiestücke, Op. 12, is in slightly less clear sound but its poetry comes through nonetheless. Chopin's Waltz in A major, Op. 34, No. 1, Debussy's diaphanous Ondine, and Villa Lobos's O Polichinello conclude the program to thunderous applause.
The DVD tacks on a couple of bizarre bonuses, silent film excerpts from a 1928 film made in Canada; the cuts are excerpts from two Chopin études -- E minor, Op. 25, No. 5 and C minor, Op. 25, No. 12. I'm not clear what watching a silent film of Rubinstein playing is supposed to accomplish, but there you are.
The film of the Moscow recital is in grainy black-and-white and fairly acceptable mono sound. Total time: 97mins. Format: NTSC 4:3. Region code: 0 (worldwide).
I can't really recommend this as an only DVD of Rubinstein's playing, but it is certainly recommended for those who are Chopin lovers, pianophiles and/or Rubinstein fans.
Richard Steiger | Murray, KY USA | 05/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This one really lives up to its name. Rubinstein returned to Russia in 1964 for the first time in half a century. I don't imagine anyone in the audience was disappointed by this Moscow recital (all-Chopin, except for the encores). Since all of these works are Rubinstein staples, it's hardly necessary to discuiss them individually, except to say that he is in excellent form throughout. A few notes, however. The sound on the DVD is quite good (until the encores, that is, when the sound deteriorates somewhat), capturing R's famous "golden tone" at least as well as most of his studio recordings. Visually, the DVD is a bit fuzzy (as is to be expected), but the camera work is superlative, leaving viewers plenty of time to watch R in action from various angles (without distracting us with constant shifts). And Rubinstein is a marvel to behold, his spine at right angles to the keyboard, rarely bending toward the piano, but rising slightly from the bench to create shoulder weight and lifting his hands practically to the top of his head to create visual excitement at the end of the Heroic Polonaise. One other note: Rubinstein seems to want to play the four movements of the Chopin Second Sonata without pauses, as a kind of fantasy-sonata, but the audience starts to applaud after his powerful performance of the first movement. R, impatient to contuinue, shakes his head, and people quickly stop applauding, but he seems somewat distracted. The only careless playing in the recital comes in the first half of the scherzo, where he throws some notes around, seems to me to forget if he's already played the second repeat, and has a memory lapse just before the trio. It seems to me he just got distracted. A final thing to marvel at: Runinstein's stamina. He was 77 at the time and played a long and very taxing program. But at the end of it, he looks like he's ready to do it all over again! Don't miss this one."
Ian Altman | Athens, GA | 06/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rubinstein's prime years lasted, in my opinion, roughly from the the mid 1940s to the mid 1960s, so this concert falls near the end of that time. (Of course, even into the 1970s he remained formidable technically, and he never lost any of his natural charisma.)
The first piece on the program may be the most powerful performance of Chopin's F-sharp minor Polonaise on record. His octaves (which Rubinstein was not particularly known for) are clean and strong; his fingerwork (particularly the left hand runs) snaps like a cobra, never forcing him to 'stretch' the rhythm; and most importantly his natural yet steely rhythmic spine never wavers. The performance is absolutely compelling.
After that, the Impromptu evolves in the natural, easy, logically breathing way which only Rubinstein could evoke.
The Sonata, too, is absolutely compelling. No one attacks the 1st movement's coda the way he does. Some no dount dismiss his approach here as bombast, all temprament and no reason or control. I believe that criticism is ridiculous. He leads up to it logically and continues after it logically, directly into the scherzo movement, so that this coda becomes one of a series of climactic moments which are one thread tieing the piece together. Unfortunately, at the end of the exposition of the scherzo movement, he starts playing the recapitulation instead and ends up completely lost in a memory slip from which he must improvise his way to the begining of the trio. But then he cuts back to the chomatic double 4ths and tries it again, and forgets it even worse than the first time! This is a huge lapse, and I cannot say that it doesn't detract from the overall impact of the performance. For me, though, it does not ruin it. His Funeral March movement has all the rhetorical power and grand sweep of the Rubinstein manner, full of sentiment but without sentimentality, as he himself once wrote. And in the finale, the 77 year old man is a technical marvel, fingers as assured as Richter's, pedaling but never smudging, leading, logically as always, to the final shocking B-flat minor chord.
The second half begins with the Barcarolle, and I believe it stands with the F-sharp minor Polonaise as among the most powerful performances on record. The Rubinstein rhythmic spine is still there, though slightly more limpid, as the piece demands, and he stretches it beautifully in the coda to make the most of the harmonic disonances. His trills in double 3rds are as liquid silver, and the overall, natural breathing quality is always there.
The Nocturne and A minor waltz have exactly those same qualities. They are uncomplicated and beautifully played, without the least rhetorical mannerism.
The same goes for the three Etudes. Unfortunately, the last one, Op. 10 no. 4, is the only piece in the whole program in which we never see a shot of his hands. It is overpowering in its sheer masculine sweep and rhythmic drive.
As he begins with a Polonaise, so he ends with one: the famous A-flat. It is much as his other performances of it: big and noble. He does not strive for any subltlety here as he does elsewhere, and he does not need to.
The encores are fantastic as well. In particular the Chopin waltz, with the ascending right hand scales extended an extra octave (though kept strictly in time), is marvelous and fun.
Anyone who appreciates what Rubinstein had to offer as a musician and pianist will love this concert."
Roger L. Sayer | MUKILTEO, Washington USA | 01/20/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It was said the Rubinstein loved playing before a live audience and that he played his best in front of one. This performance clearly supports the proposition. The black and white video is not too good but the visual inadequacy is soon eclipsed by the pianistic brilliance. It was obvious that he was playing his heart out and relished the adoration of the audience. An absolutely magnificent performance. You'll never tire of watching it. As I said, the video is only adequate but the sound is quite acceptable."