|Arthur Rubinstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Arthur Rubinstein (1887 - 1982) was a Polish pianist and one of the great virtuosos of the 20th century. He was declared a child prodigy at the age of four and had perfect pitch. By the age of thirteen he had already made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic.
He toured all over the world during his long life. There may have been other pianists that could play a certain piece or composer with more insight, but everything Rubinstein played was rock-solid in interpretation and technique. His tone was golden, he was incapable of producing a harsh tone from the piano. His repertoire was huge. For example, he could perform in short notice 27 different piano concertos. He was also an excellent chamber music musician.
He made recordings from 1928 to about 1976, with most of his recordings being done for RCA. all of his RCA recordings have been issued on music CD, the entire set contains 94 CD's and runs to 106 hours. He concertized until his eyesight failed him and he retired in 1976 at age eighty-nine. His last concert was in Wigmore Hall in London where he had first played nearly seventy years previously.
|Portrait of Fryderyk Chopin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Rubinstein is most well known for his Chopin performances. Rubinstein was one of the first pianists early in the 20th century to play Chopin as the music was written. That's not to say he played it coldly and analytically, but Rubinstein purposefully rid himself of the excesses in performance and interpretation that had become somewhat of a tradition in Chopin's music. There is no better player of Chopin's 2nd sonata than Rubinstein. He plays with expression and passion that totally serves the music.
Chopin's 2nd sonata confused music lovers when it was first published in 1837. Schumann said it lacked cohesion and Chopin "simply bound together four of his most unruly children." The sonata is in 4 movements and follows the layout of Beethoven's Piano Sonata #12, which was one of Chopin's favorite Beethoven sonatas. The sonata opens with what some have called a tribute to Beethoven, as it is very similar to Beethoven's opening of his final piano sonata, Opus 111 in C minor, another favorite of Chopin.
The second movement is a scherzo, the third movement is the famous Funeral March. The enigmatic final Presto movement has been subject to many interpretations. In the preface to the American edition of the sonatas James Huneker quotes from Karol Mikuli, the editor of the sonatas and one of Chopin's pupils, that Chopin said of this movement, "The left hand and right hand are gossiping after the March". Arthur Rubinstein himself said of the movement that, "One hears the winds of night sweeping over churchyard graves, the dust blowing and the dust that remains."