Reviews of this CD
"His playing is sharply etched and ruthlessly good."
—Robert Strobl, Toccata,Germany
"Mr. Lubin played that wonderfully!"
—David Dubal, Reflections from the Keyboard (WQXR)
"For this Mozart year we have distinguished performances of the Concertos Nos. 14 and 21, played and conducted by the fortepianist Steven Lubin… these are crisp, vital distillations of Mozart, enhanced by Lubin's stylish playing."
—Andrew M. Pincus, Berkshire Eagle
"Extremely enjoyable. Lubin is a skilled and talented artist.wonderful clarity in the solo line."
—Robert W. Plyler, Jamestown (NY) Post-Journal
"With certain pieces of music, so many fine recordings have already been made that a performer really needs to bring something new to the studio to justify yet another. Mozart's Concerto No. 21 is such a piece and, happily, Steven Lubin is such a performer. Simply playing the work on period instruments is not sufficient; it's been done before. Lubin and his ensemble bring a lightness of sound and a rich complexity to Mozart. Superb technique is wedded throughout to revelations of meaning, and that's justification enough for both the works on this disc.
I don't want to slight the excellent orchestra, but it's Lubin's intimate mastery of the fortepiano that makes this recording such a standout. While a modern piano is loud enough to compete directly with the orchestra, the fortepiano must achieve a harmonious balance (the technical aspects of which are handled very well here). Lubin uses its more subtle palette as a way to peel back the layers of Mozart's music, uncovering surprising abstractions in No. 14 and virtuosity even in the scalework in the outer, robust movements of No. 21. Even the Andante in that concerto, one of the most oft-played Mozart movements, sounds fresh and tender, yet without a trace of sentimentality.
Lubin and The Mozartean Players are among the pioneers in bringing Mozart back to period instruments, and his recordings of several Mozart concertos for Arabesque are touchstones of this repertoire. It's a delight to hear the series continued on Classical Soundings."
—Beth Adelman, Early Music America Magazine
"Steven Lubin is a superb fortepianist, and that obviously places him in the historically informed performance camp. Though the instrument is less sonorous, it achieves unexpected blends with the orchestra and has an extra ping that gives the music extra edge. Most important, Lubin has much to say in every phrase."
—David Patrick Stearns, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Fortepianist Lubin's recording of these great middle-period Mozart concertos with the Mozartean Players Classical Orchestra has finally made me understand the strong appeal of period instruments. The tonal palette of the 18th-century fortepiano is more muted, more "pastel," if you will, than a modern Steinway grand. Meanwhile, period orchestra instruments are more pungent. So Lubin's performances avoid the modern, brilliant, music-box Mozart sound in favor of renditions, especially the "Elvira Madigan" concerto (K. 467), that are warmly expressive. This is Mozart at its best."
—John Pitcher, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
"[Lubin's] Mozart is delightful listening from start to finish. Its optimistic outlook is infectious; there's a real rhythmic spring in its step. The rhythmic fire, like a tennis ball, bounces from keyboard to orchestra and back, never losing its vitality. Lubin is astonishingly expressive and imaginative… Through Classical Soundings, Lubin will re-release his other Mozart concertos previously issued by Arabesque. A more attractive set would be hard to imagine."
—Sharon McDaniel, Palm Beach Post
"Twenty years back, Arabesque released several Mozart concerto recordings with Steven Lubin and The Mozartean Players—recordings that were widely praised (see John Bauman's comments in 8:3 and 9:6 [Fanfare, Vol.8, No.3, and Vol.9, No.6]). These performances of K.449 and 467 were taped at the same time—but because of corporate changes at Arabesque, they were neither edited nor released. Now, at last, they've appeared on a new label devoted to Lubin's work, past and present.
Since the 1980's, of course, period practice has become mainstream—and the tart, anti-Romantic sound of the instruments in and of itself no longer has the revelatory cleansing power that it once did. Even in this more competitive climate, though, Lubin's bold readings stand out: for their rhythmic resilience (listen to the spring with which the orchestra launches K.467), for the way Lubin's imaginative articulation clarifies the phrasing (even the most conventional gestures seem freshly minted), for their rhetorical poise. You’ll also be struck by the rapport between soloist and orchestra, a rapport that gives the performances an engagingly conversational quality (the witty exchanges in the finale of K.449 deserve special mention).
Not surprisingly, given the zesty affirmation of the interpretations, it's the outer movements that grab you most immediately. In the long run, though, you may find yourself turning to these performances even more for the middle movements, which offer a paradoxically serene impetus that avoids sentiment without falling into negligence. As on the earlier releases, the engineers have found just the right balance between the fortepiano and the orchestra—and Lubin's notes offer valuable insight into the performances. The timing is short, but with music-making of this quality, it's hard to complain. Highly recommended."
—Peter J. Rabinowitz, Fanfare, July/August, 2006
"Music and musicianship trump theory in these touching Mozart concerto performances… Steven Lubin: no compromise on artistry.
The real shame about the period performance debate is that it usually pits theories of period practice against those of traditional interpretation when it should concern period practitioners and traditional interpreters. How one employs the theories is what's truly important; a skilled performer is required for any stylistic avenue to succeed. Both sides of the debate have been guilty of overly reverential playing that has obscured the sublime essence of a composer such as Mozart. Rather than picking a camp, we'd all be better off backing particular performers. Fortepianist Steven Lubin shows here that ultimately an expert's artistic voice still says more than the instrument used.
Universal musical qualities recommend this disc of two Mozart keyboard concertos: balance between solo and tutti, ebb and flow in tempo and dynamics, and instinctively musical moments. While the quick decay of the 18th-century fortepiano allows for the clear articulation of agile moments and interplay between the soloist and the orchestra (here the excellent Mozartean Players), Lubin's vibrant playing transforms it from merely interesting to consistently engaging. His phrasing is fluid from note to note while reinforcing the overall character of each movement. He plays with patient deliberation in the archaic-minded finale of Concerto No.14 and with thrilling surges in his own cadenzas to No.21.
Most salient is his approach to the famous Andante of the C major No.21. Here he forgoes decorating the simple part, an approach supported by period practice and probably expected by Mozart himself. Exit theory; enter music. Conducted ably by Lubin, the orchestra presents the usual hazy opening, but his fortepiano buoys the mood with its crispness. The languor typical of many performances burns away like morning mist and a colourful landscape appears, with only a tinge of sadness remaining. If you haven't heard Mozart on fortepiano, or much of the instrument in general, this disc is an entry-point that doesn't compromise artistry and doesn't force you to take sides.
—Andrew Druckenbrod, Gramophone, August, 2006
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