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Wolfgang Rübsam (Piano)

Bach Keyboard Recordings from Wolfgang Rübsam, Part 3

K-5

J.S. Bach: Partitas No. 3, BWV 827 No. 4 BWV 828

Partitas Nos. 3-4 BWV 827-828 [24:05, 39:16]

Wolfgang Rübsam (Piano)

Naxos

May 1992

CD / TT: 63:17

Recorded at RMC Studio, Valparaiso, Indiana, USA.
Buy this album at: Amazon.com

Donald Satz wrote (July 14, 2001):
Summary for Hot & Thirsty Collector: Just what the doctor ordered

Rübsam starts the A minor Partita with a very slow and lovely Fantasia, quite different from Tureck's incisive account on Philips. Rübsam's highly diverse Allemande is tinged with regret; his inflections and probing anaylsis make this the best performance on piano I've heard. There's nothing wrong with Rübsam's Corrente, but the excitement generated by Leonhardt's thrilling performance isn't quite to be found with Rübsam. The Sarabande is played slowly and with much elegance and reflection, a wonderful reading. The last three movements are excellent in Rübsam's hands with a fine mix of strength and spontaneity.

Next on the agenda is the majestic and heroic Partita in D major. I find this work to be the jewel in Bach's set, and the heroic elements have much to do with my opinion. This is where Glenn Gould is at his best; he blows away all alternative versions of the first five movements; I wish it had been all seven, but sometimes you have to settle for the next best thing. Presently, I am also reviewing the Partitas set from Bernard Roberts on Nimbus. I wouldn't inflict the Roberts D major with a Gould comparison; Roberts would wilt immediately. However, I figure that Rübsam might be able to withstand a comparison with Gould.

Rübsam does compare well with Gould in the first five movements and surpasses him in the Minuet and Gigue. Rübsam's is an exceptional performance which keeps getting better with each successive movement and culminates in a razor-sharp and transcendent Gigue. The differences between Rübsam and Gould are large. While Gould takes the heroic route, Rübsam takes what on the suface appears to be a variety of detours. However, each one ties into the others, and the result is a thoroughly illuminating version. Rübsam does the unexpected again and again; each time I am convinced. This reminds me of how Richter takes Schubert apart and then builds him back up in Richter's image. Rübsam's D major is a revelation not to be missed.

Don's Conclusions: Another essential acquisition from Rübsam. His performances are creative, thought-provoking, and diverse. These are great interpretations which rank with the best.

 

Feedback to the Review

Jim Morrison wrote (July 15, 2001):
Don mentioned a few days ago about being slightly put-off (I paraphrase) by the sound of Rübsam's piano, which I think is usually, if not always, a Bosendorfer. I wonder if that might be the source of the issue. I think Schiff also usually plays a Bosendorfer. Anybody have any thoughts on these instruments? I prefer a Steinway though it's not a big deal.

Bradley Lehman wrote (Jyly 15, 2001):
[To Donald Satz & Jim Morrison] Don...If the bass seems low or lacking richness with flat EQ settings: how does it sound to you if you leave the EQ settings flat but listen at two or three notches below your usual volume level?

As I mentioned, Rübsam plays his piano remarkably quietly in real life. He allows the listener to make some effort to hear every detail of every note, rather than putting everything across aggressively himself. He's very intense and strongly nuanced, but all within a pppp to mp level...frankly, he plays piano recognizing that it's a most direct descendant of the clavichord, quite apart from anything a harpsichord can do, or anything a piano typically does. If playback is turned up above Rübsam's natural level, it's not surprising there'd be some distortion of balances or tone.

Just checking a hunch: I don't know what your normal listening volume is. But the bass of Rübsam's piano sounds natural to me when I listen to his playing on his terms: quietly.

Donald Satz wrote (July 15, 2001):
[To Bradley Lehman] I've listened a high and low volumes, and there are certain movements where the lower volume is more rewarding.

Jim Morrison wrote (July 15, 2001):
[To Bradley Lehman] I just did a quick taste test of some of my similar recordings that are played on Steinways and Bosendorfer's. At every Steinway turn (Gould, Perahia, Hewitt) the sound of the piano was richer/fuller than in the Bosendorfer recordings (Schiff, Rübsam) It's not a matter of Rübsam's relatively close miking either. Schiff is noticeably further away (at least that's how it sounds) but the piano is still thinner compared to the three Steinways, though not so thin that it's a problem to listen to.

I think Rübsam's approach calls for a more direct/steady sound, and I wonder if he didn't decide on using a Bosendorfer for that sort of reason (rather than, say, the action of the piano or availability of a good instrument.

And if I may cross threads for a moment, I'd like to say that even though I do enjoy Hill's Bach clavichord disc, I would have enjoyed it even more if he would have played on the clavichord a little more like Rübsam plays on the piano, if you can see what I mean.

Jim (who'd also like to slip in another good word for Brad's clavichord recordings. I've been listening to them this weekend and they really are first rate, and they give me more listening enjoyment than even Hill's disc. If you are a clavichord fan, do yourself a favor and buy at least one. It doesn't matter which, they are all good.)

Marshall Abrams wrote (July 16, 2001):
Jim Morrison wrote:
< I just did a quick taste test of some of my similar recordings that are played on Steinways and Bosendorfer's. At every Steinway turn (Gould, Perahia, Hewitt) the sound of the piano was richer/fuller than in the Bosendorfer recordings (Schiff, Rübsam) It's not a matter of Rübsam's >
Which recordings? Or do these performers uniformly use one brand or the other? I only ask because I'm trying to get a sense of the difference between the two brands, and I'm wondering whether any of the CDs I own include Bosendorfers. I've examined my CD cases and booklets (I checked the under-50 category in the "How many Bach CDs to you own?" poll), and unless I've missed something, they all either indicate a Steinway, or don't say. (I do have a jazz album, by Cecil Taylor, where a Bosendorfer is indicated. It's a very unusual, I want to say "crunchy", sound that Taylor gets out of it. I've never heard that sound on a classical album, so I imagine it's not due solely to the fact that a Bosendorfer was used.) Thanks

 

Partitas BWV 825 830: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Partitas Anderszewski [McElhearn] | Partitas Anderszewski [Satz] | Partitas - Corolan & Kipnis | Partitas - Feller 1 | Partitas - Parmentier | Partitas - Rangell | GV & Partitas - Karl Richter | Partitas Roberts | Partitas Sager | Partitas - Steuerman | Partitas - Suzuki [McElhearn] | Partitas - Suzuki [Henderson] | Partitas - Troeger | Partitas - Verlet | Partitas - Weiss | Rübsam - Part 2 | Rübsam - Part 3

Wolfgang Rübsam: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bach Organ Works from Wolfgang Rübsam, Part 1 | Bach Organ Works from Wolfgang Rübsam, Part 2 | Bach Organ Works from Wolfgang Rübsam, Part 3 | Bach Keyboard Recordings from Wolfgang Rübsam, Part 1 | Bach Keyboard Recordings from Wolfgang Rübsam, Part 2 | Bach Keyboard Recordings from Wolfgang Rübsam, Part 3 | Bach Keyboard Recordings from Wolfgang Rübsam, Part 4

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Last update: October 13, 2006 13:16:28