Beethoven / Concerto No. 4 / Rubinstein – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

This Super Hot Stamper pressing has superb RCA Living Stereo sound, with an exceptionally clear, solid, tonally correct piano.

We recently did a major shootout for all of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos, pulling pressings from the three major Golden Age labels — RCA, London, Mercury — and this Fourth came out near the top of the heap.

Most pressings of Rubinstein’s Beethoven concertos simply do not have this kind of open, big and bold sound.

Side one earned a grade of A++ and side two was actually a bit better at A++ to A+++. That makes this a very special piano recording indeed.

What to Listen for

With Rubinstein’s recordings in particular there is often a lack of weight and heft to the piano. For some reason he preferred that sound, and with control over the final RCA product, that’s the sound of many of the recordings he made for them in the late ’50s and ’60s. Copies with a full-bodied, weighty and solid piano are the exception, not the rule.

As with any Golden Age recording, compressor distortion, tape overload and the like are quite common. Almost all copies will have some. Copies that have more than their share will be downgraded substantially.

Side One

A++ Super Hot Stamper sound, so open and TRANSPARENT. The piano is clear, present and tonally correct. There is some compression and smear in the loudest passages so we dropped this one down a grade to A++. This will be a difficult pressing to beat.

Side Two

Even better at A++ to A+++, so BIG and BOLD, with a clear and very solid piano. Hard to Fault and one of the best sides of any piano concerto recording we played in our shootout. Not many sides earned a higher sonic grade.

1809 Review

A review in the May 1809 edition of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung states that “[this concerto] is the most admirable, singular, artistic and complex Beethoven concerto ever” [Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, May 1809]. However, after its first performance, the piece was neglected until 1836, when it was revived by Felix Mendelssohn. Today, the work is widely performed and recorded, and is considered to be one of the central works of the piano concerto literature.

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