Covers + lossless, Not my Rip
Alexei Lubimov, one of the last students of the great Soviet-era pedagogue Heinrich Neuhaus (the teacher of Richter, Gilels, Lupu, and many others), has had an unconventional career. He did not set out along the standard Russian path, playing lots of Beethoven and Chopin, but rather nettled the authorities with his interests in new music, not all of it officially sanctioned, and with a decidedly un-Slavic fascination with period-instrument practices. Most of his recordings reflect those interests, although there is standard repertoire material as well.
Given that background, this splendid new release represents something of a culmination of varied adventures. To begin with, Lubimov plays on a restored 1828 Alois Graff instrument, Graff being the maker of Beethoven’s last piano. Piano technology moved very quickly in the years spanning the death of Mozart (1791) and the death of Beethoven (1827). The Walter fortepianos associated with Mozart are significantly lighter in tone and bass than this Graff instrument, which has a sound that points firmly to the modern piano. But it is still a wood-framed instrument, albeit denser and heavier in construction than its predecessors, imparting soft, fruity timbres that give this music a very different character from what is heard from a nine-foot concert grand.
It is difficult to say to what extent the choice of instrument brings us closer to Beethoven. Tempos here are broad, certainly slower than the composer’s infamously fast metronome markings. Lubimov’s rhythmic and tempo fluctuations can be surprisingly wide, although his elegance and lack of showiness ameliorate this tendency. Almost all of the large phrases in the music are accentuated by ritards or accelerandos that are not in the score. Large chords are often slightly broken, enhancing the lucidity of the textures. This manner places Lubimov’s conception of Beethoven, at least in these works, as closer to the Romantic era sensibility than to Classicism, a decision made even more fascinating in the context of the use of this period instrument.
Ultimately, and Lubimov admits it in his passionate essay on the music, the readings are personalized. He talks of playing on an old instrument that has some technical “irregularities” that helped him to understand Beethoven’s struggle. And there is a deep humanity expressed in this playing. In a way, these readings are incomparable. Musicians and listeners worship this music and so there have been many fine performances over the years. I wonder if anyone will ever match the depth of Schnabel’s interpretations, now more than three quarters of a century old. Among many excellent modern recordings, I especially admire Uchida. I will now add this very special recording to an exalted short list.
FANFARE: Peter Burwasser
1. Sonata for Piano no 30 in E major, Op. 109 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer: Alexei Lubimov (Piano)
Written: 1820; Vienna, Austria
2. Sonata for Piano no 31 in A flat major, Op. 110 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Written: 1821-1822; Vienna, Austria
3. Sonata for Piano no 32 in C minor, Op. 111 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Written: 1821-1822; Vienna, Austria
1. Ustvolskaya : Piano Concerto 17:32
2. Gubaidulina : Piano Concerto, ‘Introitus’ 24:22
3. Górecki : Piano Concerto Op.40 : I Allegro molto 4:12
4. Górecki : Piano Concerto Op.40 : II Vivace 4:09
5. Pelécis : Concertino bianco for Piano in C major : I Con intenerimento 4:51
6. Pelécis : Concertino bianco for Piano in C major : II Con venerazione 5:54
7. Pelécis : Concertino bianco for Piano in C major : III Con anima 2:45
1-3. Post scriptum
Sonata for violin and piano
I Largo – Allegro
III Allegro vivace, con moto
for clarinet solo (with piano)
5. Spiegel im Spiegel
for clarinet and piano
for clarinet, violin and piano
9. Sonate für Violine und Klavier
Alexei Lubimov piano
Alexander Trostiansky violin
Kirill Rybakov clarinet