Rubinstein: Chopin 6 Polonaises (rec. 1951/52, mono only) - German RCA LM-1205-C
Jacket VG / LP VG / German pressing
This handsome LP from RCA (LM-1205-C, German Teldec-Telefunken-Decca pressing, red/silver label, mono) features Artur Rubinstein's magnificent presentation of Chopin's Polonaises Nos. 1-6, taped in 1951/52 and the highwater mark of his achievements in these works.
Polonaise No. 1 in C-sharp minor Op. 26 No. 1
Polonaise No. 2 in E-flat minor Op. 26 No. 2
Polonaise No. 3 in A Major Op. 40 No. 1 'Military'
Polonaise No. 4 in C minor Op. 40 No. 2
Polonaise No. 5 in F-sharp minor Op. 44
Polonaise No. 6 in A-flat Major Op. 53 'Heroic'
Peter Dietrich, President of the Chopin Society of New England, Inc. has written of these performances:
"Three great and famous recordings of Chopin's mature Polonaises by Artur Rubinstein. It all started in June 1952. I was walking on Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts and while looking at a display window of a music store I noticed an LP record, LM 1205 (which I still have in my library) of Chopin Polonaises, vol. 1. I entered the store and purchased that record for the price of $5.95 not realizing at all that I was holding in my hands not only one of the best and most convincing recordings that Rubinstein had ever made together with vol. 2 LMI 52 Polonaises, but unquestionably the greatest recording of the Chopin Polonaises by any other pianist of the 20th century.
"This recording of the polonaises from the 1950-1951 season was the second set recorded by Artur Rubinstein when he was in his absolute prime (aged 63-64) capable of the most convincing interpretations of these heroic works. His unhurried tempos, his magical use of the pedal has achieved musical clarity undreamed of by any other pianist before and since. He was very fortunate to get an excellent sound from RCA engineers despite being recorded in mono only and the two records despite their fifty-two years in use still sound beautiful.
The earlier set of the 8 polonaises recorded in December of 1934 and January-February of 1935(first issued on 78-RPM records) is in the present edition reissued in vol. 4. These are already mature performances, particularly Polonaises 5 and 6, which are intense and beautiful and have many qualities of the later recordings. We have to remember that the 78-RPM era was very challenging to every artist because of the rather primitive recording equipment of the time and a limited time for each side of a record. Despite all of the difficulties the achievement is outstanding and it is a joy to listen to Rubinstein's earlier recordings and compare them with the later and perhaps more mature performances and be able to notice the changes in growth of Rubinstein's artistry.
"The 3rd and final set, vol. 48 of the 8 mature polonaises was recorded in Carnegie Hall, New York City, in March of 1964 in stereophonic sound, when Rubinstein was 77 years old. These are also great performances, more mellow and a shade less robust and dramatic than his 1950-51 renditions. They also lack the tremendous intensity and urgency when compared with his 1951 crowning achievement. Almost all the repeats are omitted in the A Major Polonaise, Op. 40, No. 1 while in the C-minor Polonaise, Op. 40, No. 2 all repeats are restored. Personally, I like when all the repeats are included because it makes the work more complete, particularly in the polonaises, because it makes them sound more intense and monumental. All of Chopin's markings are very clear and they should be respected.
"The only regret one may have is why Rubinstein, who was so great and successful in performing Chopin's music, never recorded the earlier Polonaises and the rest of Chopin's known works? Some Chopin scholars have made various statements that outside of the etudes; Chopin's other less known works were not worthy of performing. Completely false! All of Chopin's music is worthy of performance, which has been proven by the younger generation of pianists who have recorded his complete works.
"Rubinstein performed in Boston, Massachusetts at least sixteen times between the mid fifties until his retirement in 1976, not counting his performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I was fortunate and privileged to have attended almost every performance and relished the opportunity of having spoken to the artist on several occasions. In 1965, after his last recording of the polonaises, I asked him if he had recorded all of the polonaises? His answer was 'yes.' I replied 'all?' To this he responded: 'From my early years, I loved to play the piano but I hated the practicing. If I had been more willing to work hard, I could have played 100 more pieces of music.' Then I asked him about the etudes? 'Oh, no! I am not ready, yet. I am still working on polishing them. Probably, I will die sooner than record them,' was his reply. Unfortunately, he never recorded them. It is a pity because several of the etudes he programmed in his recitals in Boston, playing them every time very beautifully. He was a great pianist, a master musician and demanded the impossible from himself.
"Summarizing the monumental achievement by one of the greatest artists of the 20th century it makes one feel as if the world is a better place, where all problems disappear and only love an beauty reign. Are there any further recommendations necessary?"
Note the stirking artwork, executed by “ENG”. There are outstanding notes on the reverse side of the jacket in English (by Casimir Wierzynski, author of The Life and Death of Chopin), as well as in English and French (by H.K.).
CONDITION – PLEASE READ CAREFULLY:
The gradations of condition I use are as follows: MINT, Near-Mint, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor.
The condition of the jacket is VERY GOOD. There is a tiny cut at the spine, edgewear (more so at corners), and mild discoloration to the rear panel, but that is all. There are no bends, seamsplits, or owners' markings, and the whole remains solid, bright, glossy, and highly attractive – overall, a very good collector's copy.
The condition of the LP is VERY GOOD. Although there is light surface noise throughout, in general the playback remains quite fine. However, those wanting a flawless or near-MINT copy are kindly advised to look elsewhere. Overall, this rates as a very good collector's copy.