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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDD22007
Recording details: October 1981
Art Workers Guild, Queen Square, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: March 1990
Total duration: 25 minutes 17 seconds

'Leslie Howard understands Rubinstein's range of temperament very well indeed and I cannot think of another pianist whose advocacy could have been more persuasive … a notable pianistic achievement whose effect is heightened by Hyperion's lifelike digital recording' (Gramophone)

'Impressive, large-scale works… all brilliantly played' (The Tablet)

'Howard est à la fois un prodigieux virtuose et un poète capable de faire surgir de délicates visions de l'ivoire. Si l'on ajoute un imparable sens de la construction conférant une solide assise à ces édifices apolliniens, on comprend que ces sonates ont trouvé avec lui leur référence' (Diapason, France)

Piano Sonata No 2 in C minor, Op 20
composer
c1852/4

Allegro con moto  [7'34]
Vivace  [9'32]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Rubinstein’s second sonata was composed between 1852 and 1854 and was published in 1855. The shortest of the four sonatas, it replaces the conventional slow movement and scherzo with a theme and variations.

Unlike the other sonatas, the second begins with a rather tentative version of the main theme and it is only after subsidiary material, derived from rapidly arpeggiated chords, that the melody appears in full strength. Also a reversal of the conventional role is the fanfare-like second subject. The development is straightforward enough, with excursions into E flat minor and A flat minor, then A major and E major before an enharmonic modulation almost violently restores the home key.

The theme and variations, which Rubinstein often played separately, form a graceful intermezzo, simple and lyrical until the Schumannesque third variation alters the mood. After the mild solemnity imposed by the minor key of the fourth variation, a short coda restores the tranquillity of the beginning.

The finale is another movement in sonata form, characterized by a favourite Rubinstein device of constant very rapid triplets. The excellent second subject is hurried aside and the exposition is repeated. The development relies rather heavily on sequential repetition of phrases from both main themes, but the return is handled very deftly, with almost orchestral colouring. Mendelssohn is clearly the model for the nonetheless effective coda.

from notes by Leslie Howard © 1996

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