Great music, and warm sound, but in the Brahms things seem all a bit up-close, and Arnold Steinhardt's violin in particular never sounded as sweet as it should have. In the Dvorak, on the other hand (with a different re-mix engineer), things seem in much better balance. There's a little more air around the sound, and the playing in the higher regions comes across all the better for it. In the Brahms, I was most bothered by the sound in the first two movements; maybe I just got used to it over time, but yet, through my Bose headphones, the difference when we moved to the Dvorak was palpable. Rubinstein was 80 when the Brahms was recorded; the Dvorak was four years later. It's lovely playing -- Santa Fe Listener, on American amazon.com, calls it tentative. I would call it a bit uninflected, coming at one with nice tone but little light and shade. That could partly be the recording's fault. Still, these are performances I'm glad to have heard.
Personal note: I heard Rubinstein give a solo recital in St. Louis in 1967, the year of the Brahms recording. Schumann's "Carnaval" and Beethoven's "Waldstein" were on the program. I remember R. striding on to the stage with a big grin, like a man 30 years younger. I'm glad to have heard that too -- he played beautifully.
on 5 January 2012
Reviewing recordings at this level is difficult. You have Rubinstein, Brahms and Dvorak. What can go wrong? I have several recordings of the piano quintet op 34 by Brahms because it is one of my favourite pieces. I heard it first live and fell in love with it. Brahms makes a quintet sound like an orchestra. I also have a lot of Rubinstein because I adore his interpretation and playing, particularly of Chopin. Rubinstein makes the piano sound like the voice of eternity.
This is an intense and stirring recording and rewards careful listening - or any kind of listening. I listen to it most often of my recordings of this piece and I always flow into the Dvorak at the end feeling enhanced and triumphant. If I had to choose only one from my recordings of this I would surely choose this one.