Author Topic: Rubinstein & the need for good orchestras  (Read 766 times)

Alan Howe

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Rubinstein & the need for good orchestras
« on: Sunday 03 December 2017, 22:10 »
I have just been playing the very fine recording of the original 4-movement version of Rubinstein's 2nd Symphony performed by the Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra under George Hanson on MDG. What struck me forcefully was how poorly this composer has been served in most of the recordings of his symphonies. In fact I'd say this (the MDG) was the best by a street: so many others have been played by scrawny eastern European bands with little finesse - and sometimes with clear intonation issues. Now I would never equate Rubinstein with, say Raff, but I do wonder how much higher his reputation as a symphonist would be if better orchestras had been employed in recordings.

Any thoughts?

Mark Thomas

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Re: Rubinstein & the need for good orchestras
« Reply #1 on: Sunday 03 December 2017, 22:21 »
My immediate thought is that I don't have this recording, and therefore can't make the comparison which you have. That said, what you say sounds utterly plausible.

Alan Howe

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Re: Rubinstein & the need for good orchestras
« Reply #2 on: Sunday 03 December 2017, 22:22 »
...the point being that one can take pleasure in fine orchestral playing - which can, of course, raise one's opinion of a piece. Beecham in his RPO days was a classic example of a conductor who could do this. He also had the terrific ability to make the second-rate sound like a masterpiece.

Alan Howe

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Re: Rubinstein & the need for good orchestras
« Reply #3 on: Sunday 03 December 2017, 23:09 »
Actually the 5th Symphony on Naxos with the George Enescu Philharmonic (Bucharest) under Horia Andreescu is pretty good too.

eschiss1

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Re: Rubinstein & the need for good orchestras
« Reply #4 on: Monday 04 December 2017, 12:03 »
Better or worse than the performance on Centaur (coupled with symphony no.3?)
"A cat, as I keep on saying, is also a cat for a' that..." - from Natsume S┼Źseki's Wagahai wa Neko de Aru (I Am a Cat, part 2 chapter 1)

Alan Howe

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Re: Rubinstein & the need for good orchestras
« Reply #5 on: Monday 04 December 2017, 12:23 »
I'll check...

Alan Howe

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Re: Rubinstein & the need for good orchestras
« Reply #6 on: Monday 04 December 2017, 12:52 »
It starts off OK, but the orchestra - especially the hard-worked strings - doesn't sound particularly well rehearsed to me. I'm sure the orchestra can play better than this, but the impression is one of a 'turn up and record' product. I'd say the Naxos (originally Marco Polo, of course) was better. But Hanson with WSO are best in this repertoire. Pity he didn't record more of the symphonies...

MartinH

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Re: Rubinstein & the need for good orchestras
« Reply #7 on: Monday 04 December 2017, 21:18 »
When Hanson was in Tucson, he once gave a concert playing some of the ballet music from The Demon. I was hoping he might bring us a nice treat: a live, Rubinstein symphony. Never happened, and probably for good reason. Yes, the Marco Polo recordings are often wanting in orchestral polish, to put it mildly. The early Vox recording of no. 6 was no better and the Centaur of 3 & 5 no great revelation either. And maybe it's Rubinstein: he was a boring orchestrator, his themes are too often earth-bound and his harmonic scheme nothing too thrilling, either. I can't muster much enthusiasm for the symphonies, and I love this obscure stuff! What I would like to hear are first-class performances and recordings of the piano concerti! Bombastic, vulgar...and irresistibly exciting and fun to hear.

Ilja

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Re: Rubinstein & the need for good orchestras
« Reply #8 on: Monday 04 December 2017, 21:52 »
Playing devil's advocate I might argue that any piece that depends on first-rate performances to make it sound convincing, has problems. Having said that, I even find Stankovsky's oft-lamented seven-movement version of  Rubinstein's second an enjoyable listen; and the Hanson recording is much, much better, even if I have a soft spot for the Mansurov recording. IMO the Marco Polo's main problem is tempo; they make it all sound so laborious dreary; speeding up the fourth symphony by about 15% (yes, I know) gives it a totally different character. Try it.
- By comparing and scaling these great musicians you are diminishing art itself. Every artist has its own mind, sensibility and technique which gives us varieties and choices. Please do not make art into a competition: it is insulting to wonderful composers and artists - Anonymous YT commenter

MartinH

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Re: Rubinstein & the need for good orchestras
« Reply #9 on: Wednesday 06 December 2017, 18:21 »
Showing either my age or technical ineptitude, how does one go about speeding it up 15%? My cd players lack speed control.

Alan Howe

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Re: Rubinstein & the need for good orchestras
« Reply #10 on: Wednesday 06 December 2017, 21:46 »
I think one requires special software...


scottevan3

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Re: Rubinstein & the need for good orchestras
« Reply #12 on: Thursday 07 December 2017, 05:34 »
Yes, Rubinstein  has not been as well served on recordings as he should be. While his music keeps my interest, there are times it feels a chore to get through, and in some cases this is due to the playing / recording of the piece. His piano and chamber music are different stories: they've received some excellent recordings and, overall, don't outstay their welcome like some of the orchestral works tend to do.

His operas are certainly worth exploring. In August of 2018 the Bard Music Festival will feature a fully staged performance of "The Demon."  The Marco Polo recordings of ballet music from "Ferramors" and "Nero" make the prospecs of full recordings all the more tantalizing.

I just learned of Dmitri Hvorostovsky's passing, here's his live rendition of the "Epithalamium´╗┐" from "Nero":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPPQpydoZTQ

Ilja

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Re: Rubinstein & the need for good orchestras
« Reply #13 on: Thursday 07 December 2017, 18:42 »
Quote
Showing either my age or technical ineptitude, how does one go about speeding it up 15%? My cd players lack speed control.
This is a good and free application to edit audio files: http://www.audacityteam.org/download/
- By comparing and scaling these great musicians you are diminishing art itself. Every artist has its own mind, sensibility and technique which gives us varieties and choices. Please do not make art into a competition: it is insulting to wonderful composers and artists - Anonymous YT commenter

matesic

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Re: Rubinstein & the need for good orchestras
« Reply #14 on: Thursday 07 December 2017, 19:31 »
It's a bit of a performance but if you've got the time and the inclination... You'll start by ripping the CD to the hard drive, I think in mp3 format so there will inevitably be some degradation, then use Audacity to increase the tempo (if you increase the "speed" the pitch will go up too) and export the result as a wav file to the memory device of your choice. I haven't tried it with orchestral music, but solo strings start to sound a bit unnatural if they're speeded up by more than  a few %.