Monday, May 30, 2011

Artur Rubinstein – Beethoven’s Piano Concerto C Minor

Composing his third concerto for piano, Beethoven was probably passing through the most difficult moments of his life. Advancing deafness and unstable disposition made him feel increasingly isolated. Extreme emotions are clearly readable in this work, from triumphant hope to the depths of despair. Composed in 1800, it was premiered three years later with the composer himself as a conductor and soloist. And still the three years period he had for corrections was not enough. According to memoirs Ignaz von Seyfried, the score was incomplete and soloist part was nearly empty. Almost entire piano part during the first preformance Beethoven played directly from his memory. It was probably the kind of work creator has to live with – reminiscences of Mozart’s Piano Concerto C Minor KV 491, which was long time inspiration for Beethoven, can be reason for such delay. Later composer scored his work and wrote his own cadenza to first movement. There were many alternative cadenzas wrote for this Concerto by Johannes Brahms, Clara Schumann, Carl Czerny, Franz Liszt, Gabriel Fauré and  many others.
There are great recordings of this concerto – Martha Argerich, Claudio Arrau, Daniel Barenboim, Alfred Bendel, Emil Gilels, Glenn Gould, Wilhelm Kempf, Sviatoslav Richter and Krystian Zimerman are the best of the best among pianists recorded Beethovens Third. Probably most esteemed and best known is Artur Rubinstein. His phenomenal and inspired performance of this concerto recorded with Symphony of the Air conducted by Joseph Krips was published in 1958 by RCA Victor Read Seal label.
The history of this orchestra is very interesting itself. In 1937 the NBC founded the orchestra for weekly transmissions. To train the orchestra board hired Artur Rodziński, conductor and orchestra builder. He trained NBC Symphony for Arturo Toscanini, Pierre Monteux and many guest artists. After Toscanini had retired NBC Symphony in 1954 was disbanded. Musicians tried to preserve the orchestra and called new ensemble Symphony of the Air. For the first season musicians hired for the leading conductor Leonard Bernstein and took part in his first television appearances. Orchestra remained active till 1963 recording and airing numerous great performances with Fritz Reiner, Leopold Stokowski, Bruno Walter, Kyrill Kondrashin, Thomas Beecham, and Josef Krips.

Artur Rubinstein – Beethoven’s Piano Concerto C Minor  (1958)

Artur Rubinstein was born in Łódź in 1887. As a four years old boy he was already a prodigious child. Since Joseph Joachim heard him playing piano, he became protégé of legendary romantic virtuoso. Later young pianist was studying in Warsaw and Berlin. After his debut in Berlin Philharmonic in 1900, Artur Rubinstein became student of Karl Heinrich Barth, who was pupil of Ferenc Liszt, who himself was pupil of Carl Czerny who in turn had been taught by Ludwig van Beethoven. Lineage connecting Rubinstein with Beethoven makes clear the mystery of his congenial interpretations. By the way, the same Barth’s class was attended by Wilhelm Kempff, who also was great interpreter of Beethoven’s works. 
For the first time Rubinstein recorded Concerto No 3 C Minor op. 37 in 1944 with NBC Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini. Then 14 years later Artur Rubinsteion recorded this Concerto with Symphony of the Air and Joseph Krips as a part of bigger undertaking of production series of albums with complete concerti cycle. And this recording is phenomenal documentation of artists possibilities in late fifties. It has romantic enthusiasm and classical calmness. Sometimes pianist sounds light and balanced the way more classical than other interpreters. In this case pianist and orchestra are united by superior idea of the work. And such classical connection is not a coincidence because Beethoven himself gave in Third Concerto some formal solutions known from decade earlier concertos composed by Mozart.

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