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Play final movement:
A truly excellent Fourth from Rubinstein and Beecham
With rarely-heard cadenzas from Saint-Saëns
BEETHOVEN - Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58
Rarely, rarely as comes the spirit of delight, there is the infrequent occasion which makes the reviewer's life really worth while : such an occasion is the issue of this recording. I cannot remember a finer or more deeply satisfying performance of this great concerto, one which more effortlessly overcomes every obstacle and in which every detail is so meticulously polished and so absolutely right. The recipe is simple enough : take a soloist and a conductor who, besides being personalities as well as great artists, are entirely en rapport, add a first-rate orchestra of alert musicians, give them all enough time to rehearse thoroughly, finish off with a recording engineer who secures the right balance between piano and orchestra, and who captures the lustre of the orchestral playing —and you get a masterpiece, like this. (I should like to feel that everybody concerned in the Columbia set I reviewed in July will listen to this issue.)
Throughout these discs there is this feeling that two personalities are pulling together, each inspiring the other. The orchestral playing is never allowed to become just an accompaniment, but is full of life (notice, as one instance only, the basses in bars 55-58). Phrasing is beautifully modelled, the rhythm is admirably taut (listen to the second subject of the first movement), and the perfectly-controlled string dynamics at the end of the Andante are most moving. Rubinstein's cadenzas, which are new to me, are entirely acceptable in style, though that in the first movement is over-long.
So far as I am concerned, nobody need bother to record this concerto again : this performance is it ! L.S.
As transfers and restoration go, this was a delight from start to finish. A good, clean, near-mint set of 78s exhibited very few of the characteristics for which the medium is often notorious - what little swish was occasionally evident was simple to remove; the frequency range was full and tonal balance good; surface noise was limited to some easily-removed crackle and relatively low hiss; there was not a scratch to be found.
What I have been able to do is bring the very latest remastering technology to bear on this recording: XR remastering reveals a slightly fuller-bodied recording with finer natural reverberation than was immediately apparent; new advances in digital noise reduction techniques allow for greater-than-ever suppression of background noise without audible damage to the musical content; Ambient Stereo processing gives the whole recording an even greater sense of realism; side joins are seamless - the only possible giveaway is an occasional hint of end-of-side distortion and treble roll-off.
In short, for much of the time this sounds like a very slightly hissy recording taped in the 1960s or 70s, rather than captured on 78s in the 1940s. It's a really excellent performance, perhaps marred for some by the unusual use in the first and third movements of Saint-Saëns' candenzas, and it sound fabulous!
notes from Wikipedia
Arthur Rubinstein KBE was born on January 28, 1887, the youngest of 8 children of a businessman from the large Jewish community of Łódź, Congress Poland, today's Poland.
He demonstrated an early and singular fascination with the piano beginning two years of age during his elder sister's piano lessons. Rubinstein first studied in Warsaw playing at the age of four for the great Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim, who was greatly impressed and began to play the role of mentor for the young prodigy. By age ten Rubinstein moved to Berlin to continue his studies. In 1900, he made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic, followed by appearances in Germany and Poland and further study with Karl Heinrich Barth (an associate of Franz Liszt, Hans von Bulow, Joseph Joachim and Johannes Brahms; Barth also taught Wilhelm Kempff).In 1904, Rubinstein moved to Paris to launch his career in earnest. There he met the composers Maurice Ravel and Paul Dukas and the violinist Jacques Thibaud. He also played Camille Saint-Saëns' Piano Concerto No. 2 in the presence of the composer. Through the family of Juliusz Wertheim (to whose understanding of Chopin's genius he attributed his own inspiration in the works of that composer) he formed friendships with the violinist Paweł Kochański and composer Karol Szymanowski.
Rubinstein made his New York debut at Carnegie Hall in 1906, and thereafter toured the United States, Austria, Italy, and Russia. According to his own testimony and that of his son in François Reichenbach's film L'Amour de la vie (1969), however, he was not well received in the United States, and in 1907, when he found himself destitute and desperate in a Berlin hotel room, hounded by creditors and threatened with being thrown out into the street, he made a failed attempt to hang himself. Subsequently he said that he felt "reborn" and endowed with an unconditional love of life. In 1912, he made his London debut, and found a home there in the Edith Grove, Chelsea musical salon of Paul and Muriel Draper, in company with Kochanski, Stravinsky, Jacques Thibaud, Pablo Casals, Pierre Monteux and others.
Rubinstein stayed in London during World War I, giving recitals and accompanying the violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. In 1916 and 1917, he made his first tours in Spain and South America where he was wildly acclaimed. It was during those tours that he developed a lifelong enthusiasm for the music of Enrique Granados, Isaac Albéniz, Manuel de Falla, and Heitor Villa-Lobos. He was the dedicatee of Villa-Lobos's Rudepoêma and Stravinsky's Trois mouvements de Petrouchka.
Contrary to popular belief that it was the murder of Jews including many members of his own family during World War II which caused Rubinstein to cut all ties with German audiences, it was actually his disgust with Germany's conduct during the first world war, which led Rubinstein never to play there again. His last performance in Germany was in 1914.
In 1921 he made two American tours, travelling to New York with Paweł Kochański (they remained close friends until Kochański's death in 1934) and Karol Szymanowski. The autumn voyage was the occasion of Kochański's permanent migration to the USA.
Rubinstein made numerous live-recording player piano music rolls for the Aeolian Duo-Art system and the American Piano Company (AMPICO), all of which survive today and can be heard. In 1932, he withdrew from concert life for several months to work on his technique and repertoire. Astor Piazzolla cites a Rubinstein concert staged in Buenos Aires in 1939 as one of his first great impressions, which led the 18-year-old to write and dedicate to Rubinstein a piano "concerto", a definition that Rubinstein was to debate with the young composer.
During World War II, the Germans looted his home in Paris, and his career became centered in the United States. Impresario Sol Hurok insisted Rubinstein be billed as Artur for his American concerts, even though the pianist referred to himself as Arthur when in English-speaking countries. He became a naturalized United States citizen in 1946. He expressed his warm feelings for his native country when he played on June 26, 1945, at the San Francisco Opera during the inauguration of the United Nations.
In the mid-1970s, Rubinstein's eyesight began to deteriorate and he retired from the stage at age 89 in May 1976, giving his last concert at London's Wigmore Hall, where he had first played nearly 70 years before. Rubinstein died in Geneva, Switzerland, on December 20, 1982, at the age of 95.
Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, op. 58, was composed in 1805–1806, although no autograph copy survives.
Musical forces and movements
The work is scored for solo piano and an orchestra consisting of a flute, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings. As is standard for classical concertos, it is in three movements:
I. Allegro moderato (G major)
II. Andante con moto (E minor)
III. Rondo (Vivace) (G major)
Premiere and reception
It was premiered in March of 1807 at a private concert of the home of Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz. The Coriolan Overture and the fourth symphony were premiered in that same concert. However, the public premiere was not until 22 December 1808 in Vienna at the Theater an der Wien. Beethoven again took the stage as soloist. This was part of a marathon concert which saw Beethoven's last appearance as a soloist with orchestra, as well as the premieres of the Choral Fantasy and the Fifth and Sixth symphonies. Beethoven dedicated the concerto to his friend, student, and patron, the Archduke Rudolph.
A review in the May 1809 edition of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung states that "[this concerto] is the most admirable, singular, artistic and complex Beethoven concerto ever." However, after its first performance, the piece was neglected until 1836, when it was revived by Felix Mendelssohn. Today, the work is widely performed and recorded, and is considered to be one of the central works of the piano concerto literature.
I. Allegro moderato
The first movement opens with the solo piano, playing simple chords in the tonic key before coming to rest on a dominant chord. After a poetic pause of two and a half beats, the orchestra then enters in B major, the major mediant key, thus creating a tertiary chord change. This becomes a motif of the opening movement.
The orchestra states the main theme in B major, dropping through the circle of fifths to a cadence in the tonic, G major. The theme is then stated again, this time in stretto between upper and lower voices. A very strong cadence in the tonic, withering away within one bar, introduces a transitional, modulatory theme with restless triplet accompaniment, also containing hints of stretto. The music moves to the minor mediant key, B minor, while its dynamic is reduced to pianissimo, at which point material from the opening theme returns. Through a rising bass line and sequential harmonies, the music regains the tonic key (on a dominant pedal) with a new theme derived from bars 3, 4, and 5. The final cadence is delayed for several bars before the material from the opening bar resurfaces as the movement's closing theme, accompanied by a tonic pedal over forte dominant chords.
Felix Salzer, on page 195 of his book entitled Structural Hearing, says the following about this opening, "[It is] one of the most fascinating substitutions of the entire literature...The whole passage appears as a most imaginative prolongation of interruption, the post-interruption phrase starting with a B-Major chord boldly substituting for the tonic. In addition, this post-interruption phrase introduces a very interesting melodic parallelism in form of an augmentation of the end of the pre-interruption phrase one step higher." In other words, the piano plays the antecedent phrase of this period, and the orchestra answers with ^3 supported not as chordal third of the tonic G, but rather as a root of a #III (B major) chord which substitutes for the localized tonic G major chord. After a series of parallel tenths, (which contains the seeds of the secondary theme's parallel 10ths) ^3 is supported by tonic, which proceeds to ^2 supported by II6 and V7 before achieving the end of the period with a PAC. (WMH)
The piano's entrance resembles an Eingang, an improvisatory passage from Mozart's day that would have occurred after the orchestra's last unresolved dominant chord, but before the piano played the main theme. Beethoven captures this improvisatory style by accelerating the rhythm in the piano part, from eighth notes, to triplets, to sixteenth notes, and finally in a scale that rushes downward in sixteenth-note sextuplets. A long preparation is then made before a tonic cadence duly arrives, and the orchestra once again takes up the main theme.
II. Andante con moto
The second movement is widely associated with the imagery of Orpheus taming the Furies (represented, respectively, by the piano and unison strings) at the gates to Hades. It was long thought that Franz Liszt had been the first to suggest this association, although, as musicologist Owen Jander pointed out (Jander, 1985), it was probably first used by Adolph Bernard Marx in his 1859 biography of Beethoven. The movement's quiet E minor ending leads without pause into the C major chords that open the finale.
The solo cadenza at the end of the movement calls for a usage of the left pedal in a manner which is not literally possible on the modern piano; for discussion see Piano history and musical performance.
The theme of the introduction to César Franck's Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra has reminded many commentators of the opening of the slow movement of the Beethoven Concerto No. 4.
III. Rondo (Vivace)
In contrast to the preceding movements, the third movement, in traditional rondo form, is characterized by a very rhythmic theme. The main theme begins in the subdominant key of C major before correcting itself to reach a cadence in the tonic G major.
Cadenzas for the Fourth Piano Concerto have been written by a number of pianists and composers throughout its history; these include Clara Schumann, Ferruccio Busoni, Hans von Bülow, Ignaz Moscheles, Camille Saint-Saëns, Anton Rubinstein, Nikolai Medtner, Eugen d'Albert, Leopold Godowsky, and Samuil Feinberg.
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Piano Concerto 3rd mvt: Rondo (Vivace)
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