David Soyer, Emanuel Feuermann, Gregor Piatigorsky The Rubinstein Collection (Limited Edition) [Box Set] Genres:Dance & Electronic, Special Interest, Classical A retail price of $1,600 for a box set? Granted, it's not something most of us can afford. But, for piano buffs and fans of Artur Rubinstein, this mammoth limited-edition 94-CD set might be an investment to consider. For s... more »tarters, BMG has collected all of the approved studio recordings of Rubinstein (including 200 or so that have never been on CD) and added a handful of previously unreleased recordings and some interviews. The lot has been remastered for this collection using the latest technology (RCA's disc-and-a-half Highlights sampler actually showcases some of the more dramatic remasterings)--a good thing, when you consider that many of these master tapes have a lifetime's worth of surface noise. You get a lavishly illustrated book with essays and photographs and a nice case to store the works; everything but the credit plan is included, really. Of course, it's up to you to decide whether you want 706 recordings of 347 pieces played by the same great pianist. And, though owning Rubinstein's three complete cycles of Beethoven's concertos might sound tempting, will you really listen to each of them? Probably not, but if you need 'em, here they are. (His Chopin cycles, on the other hand, you will listen to repeatedly!) It's easily one of the most impressive and comprehensive box sets that classical music has seen: a true career overview with excellent remastering and handsome packaging that reflects the collection's price tag (unlike some box sets that are just that: CDs in boxes). Do you need it? Probably not. Will you want it? You bet. --Jason Verlinde« less
A retail price of $1,600 for a box set? Granted, it's not something most of us can afford. But, for piano buffs and fans of Artur Rubinstein, this mammoth limited-edition 94-CD set might be an investment to consider. For starters, BMG has collected all of the approved studio recordings of Rubinstein (including 200 or so that have never been on CD) and added a handful of previously unreleased recordings and some interviews. The lot has been remastered for this collection using the latest technology (RCA's disc-and-a-half Highlights sampler actually showcases some of the more dramatic remasterings)--a good thing, when you consider that many of these master tapes have a lifetime's worth of surface noise. You get a lavishly illustrated book with essays and photographs and a nice case to store the works; everything but the credit plan is included, really. Of course, it's up to you to decide whether you want 706 recordings of 347 pieces played by the same great pianist. And, though owning Rubinstein's three complete cycles of Beethoven's concertos might sound tempting, will you really listen to each of them? Probably not, but if you need 'em, here they are. (His Chopin cycles, on the other hand, you will listen to repeatedly!) It's easily one of the most impressive and comprehensive box sets that classical music has seen: a true career overview with excellent remastering and handsome packaging that reflects the collection's price tag (unlike some box sets that are just that: CDs in boxes). Do you need it? Probably not. Will you want it? You bet. --Jason Verlinde
This Is No Lesson in Economics...
Florestan | Chicago, IL | 10/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is a natural tendency when reviewing items in this price-point to contemplate cost-effectiveness first and foremost. Considering that CDs have no nutritional value and cannot keep kids off crack, I am uncomfortable recognizing, much less crossing, some line in the sand where space ordinarily reserved for record-reviews must yield to amateur musings on the evils of conspicuous consumption or macroeconomic conceptions of social justice. Let's assume for the moment that this box set is free, removing from our purview the materialistic thrill or global economic blight one might seek and/or wish to stave off in purchasing it.
Rubinstein's "official" recorded output is astounding. It spans 5 decades, and encompasses significant forays into the oeuvre of dozens of composers. Though technique is generally expected to decline with age, few pianists live to be 96 years old. Rubinstein the pianist and Rubinstein the musician reached their highest collective summit when Rubinstein the man was well into his 60s. The "late-bloomer" aspect of his career places a considerable quorum of his most polished recordings squarely within the stereo era. Some of this material had made its way onto CD prior to this release, most notably his Chopin. Unfortunately, Rubinstein's well-deserved public acclaim as Chopin's supreme torchbearer unjustly limits his reputation along "expresio unius est exclusio alterius" lines. For example, though Rubinstein chose to record only a small handful of Beethoven sonatas, it is doubtful that one might hear them better played, even by his Beethoven specialist contemporaries Schnabel and Kempff. Rubinstein also ardently championed French and Spanish music, and is said to have loved performing Brahms most of all. This release places many of his most accomplished recordings before the ears of the listening public for the first time since their original release on vinyl.
I am frequently intoxicated by the earliest recordings from the 30s and 40s. Some of them, like his first traversal of the Chopin scherzi, are bite-your-nails-til-they-bleed thrilling. On the other hand, the initial limitations of the recording process required this (and every) pianist to make bothersome compromises with respect to tempi and dynamics at times. Ultimately, it comes down to personal taste. I am more consistently drawn to Rubinstein the wise-master than Rubinstein the young Turk.
RCA invested undisclosed sums of time and money into restoring, remixing, and remastering all of the recordings for this release. Some of the earlier recordings have been available on CD for quite some time (e.g. Chopin's Op. 28 Preludes, the Ormandy/Philadelphia Grieg concerto). Despite the intervention of acoustical restorationist-par-excellence Ward Marston, the remastering undertaken in the course of this project has not dramatically improved the sound on these releases. Short of traveling several decades into the past and placing more sensitive microphones in more strategic locations, there was probably little else that could have been done. Marston's brilliance is far more obvious in restoring to near original luster many deteriorating tape recordings from the late 40s and early 50s. The stereo recordings also sound fuller.
I am pleased with my purchase because having access (and, most importantly, having listened to) all of these recordings is a moving experience. It allows me to contemplate this extraordinary artist as a man, whose performance is inevitably colored by the accumulation of experience, the expanding flexibility of the recording process, the onset of maturity, and (perhaps sadly) declining physical powers. There are multiple recordings of most pieces in this collection, but I rarely find it difficult to cull a favorite among them. At this point, I play some of the records frequently, and others rarely. If your aim is to hear Rubinstein at his best, this set provides the resources you need to make what are at turns obvious, and others hopelessly personal choices. This set includes detailed (and mostly newly written) liner notes for each record as a well as an engaging hardcover book providing no fewer than 3 complete indices to the recordings (by date of recording, Composer, and Volume number). The box itself is a work of art, looks stunning on a shelf, and never requires polishing. Most of the 81 volumes are sold separately, and have been made available for download on the Apple Music Store.
While I will not claim that Rubinstein's interpretations are equally effective, I cannot think of any other pianist, now living or forever deceased, who could approach such a broad repertoire with the unwaivering technical finesse and prophetic musicianship evident in the bulk of his recorded output. If you never see the likes of a "Rubinstein Collection" on the shelf again, do not dismiss it as another textbook illustration of price elasticity. To do so is to dwell on on the vagaries of consumerism when the more important issue is that the next Rubinstein may never be.
A Superb Reissue
Hank Drake | Cleveland, OH United States | 04/30/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A friend of mine was able to aquire the Rubinstein Collection and I have been borrowing from it liberally.
RCA deserves to be commended on going the extra mile and releasing ALL of the authorized Rubinstein recordings, well organized and superbly remastered in this comprehensive edition. Hopefully, RCA will also release the individual volumes for those who are not completists or who simply cannot afford the entire set. True, this set is at full price. A source who was connected with this reissure has told me that RCA planned to issue the set at mid price, but the cost of this mammoth edition went far overbudget--and the full price was dictated by their production costs. Certainly, the money was well spent. The ramastering, particularly in the earlier recordings, must be heard to be believed. The packaging, documentation, and liner notes are all first class.
It is fascinating to trace Rubinstein's evolution as an interpreter--from the devil-may-care early days through the mature recordings of the 1950s, into the 1970s, when his playing on record tended to be a bit cautions.
Hopefully, the cost of producing this magnum opus and the reported slow sales it has been getting will not deter RCA from producing more boxed sets of Horowitz and many of the other artists in the RCA vaults. Bravo, RCA!
UPDATE, June 2010: Since this review was written, a number of things have changed. For one thing, I purchased my own copy of this set at the end of 2001. It has offered me a great deal of listening pleasure. Also, RCA has been purchased by Sony Classical. This box is no longer available (I have it from a good source that only 200 copies of the full box were manufactured, and sales were so slow, it was decided not to make any more once it finally sold out).
The individual volumes of this collection have all been offered separately - some remain in print as of this writing. A number of these recordings have also been offered as specialty items - such as Arthur Rubinstein: The Original Jacket. I recommend purchasing the discs as offered in the Rubinstein Collection - often you get more music for your money. Also, all Rubinstein material released after 1999 uses the remastering which was created for this set - so your not getting better sound. An important exception is the series of hybrid SACD discs, such as Ballades / Scherzos, Saint-Saëns: Concerto No. 2 / Franck: Symphonic Variations / Liszt: Concerto No. 1, and several others, which do offer further improvements in the sound."
An expensive must have set for Rubinstein fanatics (like me)
Lance G. Hill | Binghamton, New York | 01/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Everyone is talking about the expense of this set. Me too, because most of Rubinstein's fans already have all his LPs, or all the CDs issued previously--or both. This means a great deal of duplication of material, especially of CDs already superbly remastered and made available. However, given the limited edition status of this release, completely remastered sound, and the material never issued before on CD, along with the comprehensive accompanying book, it's going to be a set that, if you don't acquire it, you will surely regret it later when it is no longer available. RCA could have issued this at their Gold Label price, much like they did with the Heifetz Edition. No doubt the production costs of a limited edition dictate the price. To have all of Rubinstein's recordings in one handsome box makes it an highly collectible item. Nothing here needs to be said about the artist; Rubinstein has already proven himself. He's a greatly missed artist on the music scene today, his beautiful sound and sonority rarely duplicated. This is a set I will acquire at some point soon. Kudos to RCA for keeping the name of Rubinstein alive in such a luxurious edition."
It's actually not so expensive
violadagamba | New York, NY | 06/05/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Provided you have the time, listening to this collection not only helps you better appreciate Rubinstein's supreme talent but also gives you some idea of his unfolding genius--how his technique and interpretation changed through the years. There's enough room in music for every kind of interpretation, as long as you take the music first, and all the interpretations Rubinstein offered are interesting. Of course this set is expensive, but it's nearly 100 CDs plus liner notes, so the price is not that bad. Besides, if you decide to really listen to this set the way it deserves, it's going to be years before you buy another CD."
CLASSICAL MUSIC AT ITS MOST EXPENSIVE (AND BEST)
Alan W. Petrucelli | THE ENTERTAINMENT REPORT (ALAN W. PETRUCELLI) | 05/30/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"You have two choices: Starve the kids or skip the mortgage payments for a month or two. How else can you afford this 94 (!) disc set that captures every studio recording the classical icon ever recorded. Trust us: The kids are fat enough."