Chopin Nocturnes Scherzi

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 3

The earliest of Arthur Rubinstein’s three complete Chopin Nocturne cycles reveals a more free-flowing, tonally robust approach to these works that contrast with the pianist’s leaner, straighter 1949/50 versions and the darker, bass-oriented stereo traversals. There’s no clear-cut choice, for all three are equally valid. Rubinstein’s mono LP and stereo remakes of the Scherzos, however, don’t quite recapture the rhythmic lightness, joie-de-vivre, and sheer daring that distinguish his 1932 set. Listen, for example, to the kick in Rubinstein’s downward runs in the B minor Scherzo’s outer sections or the supple chord playing that graces the E major selection’s main theme. The ease with which Rubinstein negotiates the C-sharp minor Scherzo’s torrential octave sequences and delicate filigree in the trio belies any notion of his being less than a master technician. Listeners specifically wanting the Nocturnes and Scherzos as a set will be pleased by this inexpensive release.

Happily, Stuart Rosenthal’s transfers markedly improve over his previous Rubinstein efforts for Naxos (Chopin’s Polonaises). He now filters less of the higher frequencies, revealing more of the piano’s overtones. While equalization is a bit nasal in the midrange, the overall effect as akin to hearing impeccable 78 rpm shellac copies of these performances played back on excellent equipment. Still, RCA’s richer sounding and more detailed Rubinstein Edition transfers are worth the extra dough, and you get fascinating, insightful annotations by Harris Goldsmith concerning the performances. Jonathan Dobson’s fine notes for Naxos primarily deal with the compositions.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Nocturnes, Moravec (Nonesuch), Scherzos, Richter (Olympia)

FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN - Nocturnes & Scherzos

  • Artur Rubinstein (piano)

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