Rubinstein: Six Études, Op. 23; Barcarolles

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COMPOSERS: Rubinstein
LABELS: Marco Polo
WORKS: Six Études, Op. 23; Barcarolles
PERFORMER: Alexander Paley (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.223894
Anton Rubinstein’s precocious pianistic skills have tended to be cast in the shade both by brother Nikolai’s protracted battles with Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto and by his own reputation as a composer of rather dour Germanic symphonies. The Six Études he wrote for piano as a 20-year-old suggest a daunting talent and a flamboyant gift for writing a sequence of symphonic scope. There are, to be sure, melodies here, but they come second best to the range and depth of the presentation.

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Moldovan-born, Moscow-trained heavyweight Alexander Paley is clearly the right man for the task, even if his rather dogged pursuit of the First Étude’s watery arpeggios and the Russian-scherzo spring of No. 2 don’t make this immediately obvious. Finer things are in store – not least the rich perspectives of the vast C sharp minor slow movement, the centre of the sequence, and the grand manner of the Fourth Étude, pointing the way forward to the imperial grandeur of Tchaikovsky’s Second Piano Concerto as it launches a spirited final sequence. The Barcarolles begin as the right introspective contrast, but offer too little variety within themselves to be enjoyed as a group; at least Paley handles them with subtlety. David Nice