January 26, 2012 §
What can you say about Rubinstein that hasn’t been said before? The incomparable? The exquisite? The matchless? The best, the last, the first, the greatest, the only?
This video from Germany of his visit to the Hamburg Steinway factory to try out his newly repaired piano is one more superlative in the Rubinstein archives. Where else are you going to see Rubinstein noodling around? He’s trying things out, seeing if they work right. I love his questioning the technicians, as every pianist always does after a repair: Isn’t this lighter? It feels lighter to me. Nein! We kept it just the way you like it!
Wait until you see and hear the Opus 10 # 1 etude of Chopin, which he never otherwise recorded. Same goes for the Opus 10# 2. And there’s nothing like that Schubert.
When we were all younger I heard Rubinstein play in Portland. It was a recital of great tonal beauty, easy but commanding movement and rich, direct storytelling that has lived with me ever since. When I think of that recital I think of a remark my dad once made. My dad was a political reporter and a keen observer of politics national and local for his entire, long life. I once heard some younger person ask him, in about 1995, who his favorite president had been. Kennedy? Johnson? Clinton? My dad shook his head and said, “You’re forgetting: I knew FDR”.
That’s what I think of when someone asks me who my favorite pianist is. Hamlin? Kissin? Pletnev? “You’re forgetting: I heard Rubinstein”.
Which reminds me: I have to get to work.