, ,

I actually saw Artur Rubinstein in concert, during the
mid 1970’s. At that time, he performed the
Brahms “D Minor Concerto.” If I consider his ability
to provide truly satisfying performances of the “core”
Classical piano repertoire, I’d have to say that
Rubinstein is my favorite pianist. In this fach,
his tone, tasteful sense of rubato, technique,
and all-around musicality are hard to beat,
although he didn’t limit himself to performing
“core” Classical works.

Recently, I had the pleasure of watching another
one of those nostalgic, black-and-white films from
the early 1950’s, “Artur Rubinstein: Historic Film of
Rubinstein in Performance.” With the aim of
providing viewers with the opportunity to observe
famous musicians in informal, “real life” settings,
it was originally released on VHS in 1977 under
the KULTUR label, and is now available on DVD.
Of course, these impromptu films were anything
but that; however, they were scripted to leave
that impression and were similar to the
“Voice of Firestone” television series.

Initially, Rubinstein (1887-1982) was shown in
the recording studio, “making a record” of piano
music by Robert Schumann. This session was
followed by a miniature recital in his home, wherein
he performed various works, including Franz Liszt’s
“Liebestraum No. 3” and Mendelssohn’s
“Spinning Song,” before a small, appreciative audience.
We were also treated to performances of several
works by Frederic Chopin, including his two famous
Polonaises, a Mazurka, a Scherzo, a Nocturne,
and a Waltz.

The final 25 to 30 minutes of this disc were devoted
to a performance of the first movement of
Franz Schubert’s “Trio in B-flat,” followed by the
first three movements of Mendelssohn’s
“Trio in D Minor.” Rubinstein was joined by violinist
Jascha Heifetz and cellist Gregor Piatigorsky
for these final performances, which provided me
with an opportunity to observe the three great
soloists making Chamber music. When this feature
was filmed during the 1950’s, Rubinstein was in
fine form, playing with the flair and artistry that
made him special, particularly in his performances
of works by Chopin. Watching him play in these
staged “informal” settings is a real treat, and
I can forgive the early 1950’s “television broadcast”
sound quality. This DVD is definitely “essential
viewing” for true pianophiles!