Rubinstein Remembered

COMPOSERS: Rubinstein
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
ALBUM TITLE: Rubinstein Remembered
PERFORMER: Narr. John Rubinstein; with Henryk Cyz, Witold Rowicki, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra & New Symphony Orchestra of London et al; dir. Peter Rosen
CATALOGUE NO: 88843013269

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In Poland, the song ‘Sto Lat!’ (equivalent to ‘Happy Birthday’) declares: ‘May you live 100 years.’ When Arthur Rubinstein returned to his native odz in 1975, packed audiences greeted him with ovations – and this very song. He nearly obeyed, dying in 1982 only five years short of that target.

The story goes that after a failed suicide attempt in his youth, Rubinstein walked out into a Paris street and fell in love with life. His irrepressible joie de vivre, the direct, natural quality of his musicianship, his charm and his sparkle as a raconteur, seems never to have deserted him thereafter. This film, including plenty of footage of the man himself, offers a tantalising taste of the way Rubinstein’s entire way of being could warm the heart.

Made in 1987 to mark the great pianist’s centenary, this is a very personal memoir, fronted by his son, the conductor John Rubinstein. Where Rubinstein’s personal life is concerned, the story is, inevitably, partial and somewhat mythologised. But the special nature of his playing is captured gloriously, with Daniel Barenboim paying tribute to his straightforwardness, and John Rubinstein revealing that he felt he knew his father best from hearing him playing, since that was where he most revealed his deepest self.

The picture quality looks older than it is, though the sound is good. In short, a moving documentary that no pianophile will want to be without.

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Jessica Duchen