BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58.
SAINT-SAËNS: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 22.
Artur Rubinstein, pianist, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Thomas Beecham, cond.(Beethoven); Paris Conservatory Orchestra, Philippe Gaubert, cond. (Saint-Saëns)
Testament SBT 1154 (F) (ADD) TT: 52:42 (THIS CD HAS BEEN DISCONTINUED)
A fascinating disk! Rubinstein and Beecham had collaborated a number of times earlier; in 1944 the two performed Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 2 with the New York Philharmonic before an audience of 18,000 at a Lewiston Stadium concert. Here is the first of Rubinstein's four commercial recordings of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4, recorded in October 1947 for HMV, issued on four 78 rpm disks. It is an elegant performance of great spirit, a touch perfunctory at times, immaculately played by the then 60-year old pianist who was at the height of his technical powers. He elects to play the flashy first and third movement cadenzas by Saint-Saëns; in later recordings he wisely used Beethoven's own.
Camille Saint-Saëns' Piano Concerto No. 2 was a specialty of Rubinstein's. This is the first of his four recordings of the work (later ones would be conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos, Alfred Wallenstein and Eugene Ormandy). Recorded in May of 1939, with the Paris Conservatory Orchestra directed by Philippe Gaubert, this was never before issued. Rubinstein would not permit it to be released as he said the orchestra made too many mistakes, and there is no question that Gaubert, whose base was in Paris and primarily at the Opera, was hard-pressed to keep up with the nimble soloist. Rubinstein also disliked the recorded sound which really is not bad at all considering date of the recording. One can understand why any orchestra would have been challenged by Rubinstein. The truth of the matter probably is that Rubinstein didn't want his mistakes to be made public. No question that this is a dazzling performance, total bravura, and it is welcome. Testament has done another great favor for collectors. It is fascinating to compare this Saint-Saëns with a live recording of the same work with Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic from a 1953 broadcast; this is nearly as exciting, but totally controlled (ASV AS 508).
R.E.B. (Sept. 1999)