Rubinstein: Piano Concerto No. 4 in D minor; Melody in F

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COMPOSERS: Rubinstein
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 4 in D minor; Melody in F
PERFORMER: Shura Cherkassky (piano); RPO/Vladimir Ashkenazy
CATALOGUE NO: 448 063-2 ADD/DDD
Rubinstein’s Fourth Piano Concerto is yet another Romantic bauble whose slender charms have proved insufficient to merit a permanent place in the repertoire. Nor will this new recording change that – not least because there are so many more deserving candidates for resurrection. The first movement, for example, is memorable, but more for the pretentious grandeur of the main theme than its eloquence. The Andante is delightful but insipid. Not even Cherkassky can rescue the piece, although it will remain interesting in the light of Rubinstein’s formidable reputation as a pianist.

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The concerto, however, occupies less than half the disc. The rest of the space is taken up with Cherkassky’s favourite encores in recordings made over twenty years ago. These are the glorious, glittery piano arrangements and parlour pieces that are now scarcely deemed respectable by serious pianists: Saint-Saëns’s The Swan, Strauss’s Wine, Women and Song, Rubinstein’s Melody in F, here performed with a devilish panache and a palpable sense of enjoyment.

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At the end of 1995, Cherkassky died at the age of 86. This disc may have been conceived as a retrospective gesture for a man often described as the last Romantic pianist. But, since the disc captures, in these encores, so much of the irrepressible spirit of the performer, it becomes a fitting memorial. Christopher Lambton