Friday, November 7, 2008

My latest review...

Arthur Rubinstein: The Original Jacket Collection

This volume of Sony/BMG's Original Jacket Collection compiles Arthur Rubinstein's stereo cycle of Chopin's solo piano music. Well regarded by most critics, these are some of the best selling classical recordings of all time.

It's no surprise that Sony/BMG would choose Rubinstein's last cycle of these works: recorded in stereo, they are easy to market to a generation accustomed to excellent sound. Rubinstein changed over time, he matured and mellowed, and by the time these recordings were made, he was already considered the elder statesman of Chopin interpreters. In general, his later approach is better suited to works like the Sonatas, but I prefer the spontaneity of his trailblazing 1930s versions of the Nocturnes, Mazurkas, and Scherzos, and the controlled fire of his 1950s set of Polonaises. There is one mono disc in this set, from 1946, including Rubinstein's first recording of the Sonata, Op 35, and his only version of the Preludes, Op. 28 - - neither of which show the pianist at his best. Rubinstein never recorded a complete set of Etudes, although he did record the Trois Nouvelles Etudes twice (the latter set is included here).

These recordings were originally issued as complete sets by genre, and Sony/BMG mostly follows the original programming concept (with the exception that the Mazurkas and Nocturnes are published on 2 CDs instead of 3 LPs). The original record covers are produced in miniaturized form, and the original liner notes are included. The sound is identical to BMG's 1999 complete Rubinstein reissue, which faithfully reproduces the pianist's distinct tone. If you already have those releases, there's little point in getting this set. But if you're new to Chopin or Rubinstein, this Original Jacket box is a worthy and classy investment.

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