Han Chen

Anton Rubinstein: Piano Sonatas Nos. 1 and 2; Three Serenades

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Pianist and composer Anton Rubinstein was considered the equal of Liszt in his own time but gradually fell out of favor to the point where the chestnut Melody in F, Op. 3, No. 1, and a few other short pieces were all that remained in the repertory. He was too German for the Russians, and, perhaps, too Russian for the Germans. Rubinstein's music lacks the daring quality of Liszt's, but it has enjoyed a certain revival among pianists who take to its slightly scholastic quality and well-controlled virtuosity. Among those is Han Chen, who delivers ideally clean, liquid readings of two sonatas and the set of short serenades here. The Piano Sonata No. 1 in E minor, Op. 12, features lots of virtuoso octaves grafted onto Schubertian melodies, and Chen does well not to lose the melodic aspect. The Piano Sonata No. 2 in C minor, Op. 20, also from the middle of the 19th century, has a fascinating opening movement in which exercise-like material finally coheres into spectacular virtuosity, and here again, Chen's control serves him well. Between the sonatas are the Three Serenades, Op. 22, lighter works that perhaps need a more relaxed flair. However, Chen makes a very strong case for the two sonatas, works that still challenge any pianist.

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