Concerto Recording Review Excerpts
All of the instruments used in the performances are of the period, authentic or reproductions, and they combine in stylish, fresh performances which are among the most enjoyable I've heard on disc this year...the pungency of the setting in both Mozart and Haydn is delightful. As for the keyboard performances, they are sparkling.
The State, Columbia, South Carolina
The record is a distinct pleasure.
Herman Trotter, Buffalo Evening News
Lubin and company are lively, imaginative performers who would be a joy to encounter in music of any period.
Scott F. Heumann, Houston Arts Magazine
All in all, this disc, which repeats a well-reviewed concert at Alice Tully Hall, is exceptional.
Jacob Stockinger, Capital Times, Madison, Wisconsin
These are excellent, spiffy-bright performances which are high in historical value. Lubin is a scholar-performer, one with a flair for fun. The zesty orchestra uses only period instruments, which give additional sheen to Arabesque's fine digital reproduction. Highly recommended!
Heuwell Tircuit, Los Angeles Times
The recording features the intelligent musicianship of Steven Lubin—I found his performances both interesting and emotionally satisfying throughout. Placed in the context of the mellower, more breathy woodwinds and the amber tones of gut-strung strings, Lubin's fortepiano can indeed make one dream back to a Viennese salon.
Richard A. Perry, Whig-Standard Magazine, Ontario
In original-instrument performances of a far higher order, pianist Steven Lubin offers magnificent concertos by Mozart and Haydn, ably accompanied by the Mozartean Players.
Paul Turok, Ovation
Hearing the D Major Concerto in this fashion...suddenly things fall into place. Balances between solo and orchestra are correct, passagework flies along deftly...the bass of the solo instrument blends particularly well with that of the orchestra. The cadenzas, by Lubin, are among the most imaginative and stylish I have heard in this work. The Mozart concerto is one of the late, great ones with particularly impressive wind writing, which is too frequently overpowered by the strings of a modern orchestra and/or the soloist. Not so here. Among my favorite recordings of this work are those by Anda, Brendel, Casadesus, Curzon and Kempf. I must now add this as very much an equal...one of the finest concerto recordings of the year.
John Bauman, Fanfare
Record of the Year, Honorable Mention, for Arabesque's recording of Mozart Piano Concerto, K.488, Haydn, Piano Concerto in D.
Stereo Review, 1983
The best Haydn recording on original instruments I have yet encountered is of Haydn's Piano Concerto in D played by Steven Lubin on a replica fortepiano with the Mozartean Players on period instruments.
Lawson Taitte, Texas Monthly
Period instrument fanciers will delight in the pairing of piano concertos by Mozart and Haydn by the Mozartean Players. Steven Lubin's fortepiano lines sparkle amid refreshingly transparent orchestral textures.
Allan Kozinn, The New York Times
While as a rule I'm no champion of such "authentic" presentations, this performance is a revelation.
Harris Goldsmith, High Fidelity
This recording at last offers the perfect solution, a fortepiano with a chamber orchestra of period instruments. It is revelatory. The orchestral balance is superb...when the fortepiano joins in, the sonority is ravishing, the delicate balance is maintained, and not a note is lost. Steven Lubin, a fine musician who knows both how to turn a phrase and how to pace a large-scale work, stresses the lyrical aspects of the music.
Stoddard Lincoln, Stereo Review
The Mozartean Players give lively, ardent support in these distinctly chamberish accounts of the Haydn and Mozart concertos, creating an intimate ambience, and a suitable balance.
Steven Lowe, Keynote
The Mozartean Players' renditions are just about perfect. Their playing is vigorous, robust, and idiomatically colorful. These are performances both historically illuminating and musically satisfying. This series richly deserves public success.
John W. Barker, American Record Guide
The performance is subtle and effective—sparklingly played.
Paul Turok, The New York Times
Lubin's performance of Mozart's D-Minor Concerto strips gobs of varnish from a work whose outlines are often obscured by overlays of romantic posturing. [From "Want List," critics' five top discs of the year.]
Peter J. Rabinowitz, Fanfare
[The Mozartean Players] provide Lubin with admirably spirited support for his well considered and splendidly executed treatment of the concerto. This is a nicely stylish Mozart reading, with elegance and panache served up in equal measures.
James Wierzbicki, High Fidelity
I was enthusiastic in my praise of the first disc of what I hope is going to become a series of Mozart piano concerto recordings from these forces. This issue is every bit as fine as the last. Never has the dark-hued passion of the D-minor Concerto been so fully realized as in Lubin's almost daemonic reading. The balance within the orchestra is well-nigh perfect with the interplay beween strings, winds, and brass being perfectly natural and yet always audible.
John Bauman, Fanfare
The performances have a fresh, innocent quality so right for Mosart but so hard for many performers to achieve...they weave the whole into an extremely effective performance...eminently satisfying.
David Blombach, Digital Audio
Steven Lubin is the best Mozartean of the present generation...The Mozartean Players superbly second the soloist with playing of great transparency and beauty. Don't miss this one!
Phil Muse, Creative Loafing, Atlanta
The changes in balance in balance provided by the old instruments give us a radically new sense of what is important in Mozart's textures...you have a real sense of Mozart scrubbed clean. Intruments alone, though, do not make for successful performances—and most of the credit for the beauty of this recording must go to the players themselves...Lubin shapes the piano's line magnificently…highly recommended.
Peter J. Rabinowitz, Fanfare
Both these performances are wonderful. The 23rd Concerto, rendered with smaller goup, is particularly enjoyable. Its forcefulness is apparent from the very beginning—what a marvelous balance of strings and winds. This performance of this work now replaces Haskil's for me as my all-time favorite.
Period instruments that permit unusual inner clarity, in performances that convey a lively spirit too often missing "musically correct" readings. One of the more attractive Mozart concerto cycles underway.
We have another record of the month...we were unanimous in our feeling that here we were dealing with an item of very special quality. It comes over as the most self-evident thing in the world, a totally convincing approach. Steven Lubin's technical and artistic abilities seem utterly limitless.
Alte Musik aktuell, Germany
The fortepianist Steven Lubin and the Mozartean Players have already issued two volumes of Mozart's piano concertos, to which they add a new installment containing Nos. 12 and 15. This is a cycle worth following: Lubin is an eloquent soloist who spins forth Mozart's sparkling lines dazzlingly on a fragile fortepiano, yet imbues them with all the robustness, drama and ingenuity inherent in them...there's subtlety and coloration in the tone of a fortepiano, when it's in capable hands, that the modern instrument cannot match. As in previous installments, the Mozartean Players accompany Lubin with precision and vigor, while always keeping the orchestral textures alluringly bright and transparent.
Allan Kozinn, Pulse
Fortepianist Steven Lubin and the Mozartean Players, a New York ensemble that uses period instruments, give sterling performances of two of Mozart's greatest achievements [Concertos K.414 and 450].
Peter Goodman, New York Newsday
The sound is crystal clear, the playing superb. And the added authenticity of the original instruments makes for the finishing touch.
Raymond Jones, The Daily Press
The rich strength of Mozart comes through wonderfully in these concertos, as does his delightful, seemingly effortless genius...a brilliant performance.
Lucky Clark, The Valley Times, Maine
If you're partial to, or even open to, the "period instrument" sound, you'll enjoy some new kids on the block, the Mozartean Players. It's a wonderful sound, with clean intonation and intimate clarity. Lubin's tempos are consistently appropriate and buoyant.
Oliver Roosevelt, The Birmingham News, Alabama
Serving as soloist on a resonant fortepiano, and leading a select ensemble of period instruments played by the excellent Mozartean Players, Steven Lubin justifies his position as the leader in today's fondness for the fortepiano. This cynic must confess that he finds Lubin's performances outstanding in conception and execution. Arabesque and Lubin are to be saluted for an ideal presentation of the case for authentic instruments, proving that superior performance is what matters in the long run, and matters of literal scholarship less significant than musicality and sensitivity.
Byron Belt, Newhouse News Service
These two discs feature 18th-century fortepiano and strings modeled after those of the composer's day. It doesn't take long to get used to the slightly tinkly, resonant timbre of the springy hammers and the sweet bloom on the violins, and the sound seems perfectly right in these great concertos. Lubin is an excellent Mozartean, and his ensemble plays with classical understanding and the ability to play languorously in the slow middle movements. He plays Mozart's solo cadenzas in three concertos, interpolating his own in No. 20, to these ears the deepest masterwork of the 27. Joyful, glorious music.
Tom de Nardo, Philadelphia Daily News
The series of Mozart piano-concerto recordings by Steven Lubin has been proceeding with an agonizing slowness. That, perhaps, is the reason that it so consistently fine. The Teldec pressing of Arabesque is flawless. One certainly will not regret purchase of this new issue.
John Bauman, Fanfare
1986 has been an above-average year for Mozart piano recordings...my favorites come from pianist Steven Lubin, who recorded four concertos with the Mozartean Players. Lubin's performance is joyful, and his piano-roll precision builds momentum that makes the listener's imagination spin like a top...it's magical and fun.
David Hendricks, EPAC Key
The familiar Haydn Concerto in D is an unmitigated joy. Lubin's playing—pert in the first movement, tender in the second, and full of zing in the Rondo all'Ungarese, is superb, and his cadenzas are brilliant.
Richard Taruskin, Opus
There is a tremendous difference between the sweetness and light of the major-key concertos and thundering intensity of No. 20 in D minor, but the fortepiano, as played by this sensitive and skillful virtuoso, captures and brilliantly defines the wide range of dynamics, timbres and expressions contained within all of these contrasting works. Lubin was so moved by the thought of the power Mozart must have projected when performing...in an opera house, the old Burgtheater in Vienna...that he captured the moment in a painting used as the illustration for this recording. That he does justice, and then some, to what he calls Mozart's "artistic audacity," is no mean feat.
Nikki C. Hasden, The Chattanooga Times
After appearing on several LPs, Lubin's excellent performances of Mozart piano concertos on authentic instruments are combined here [on CDs]. Concertos 12 and 15 are particularly confident performances that reflect how Mozart sounded in his own time.
David Patrick Stearns, USA Today
The important thing about this release, apart from style, is that you are hearing good musicians playing good instruments. Bright, crisp articulation and a first-rate recording round out an elegant release.
Hewell Tircuit, San Francisco Chronicle
For these performances Steven Lubin uses a fortepiano modelled on a 1785 instrument by Anton Walter; I find it clear and warm, capable of glitter in the passage-work, of subtle melodic inflection and of profound expressiveness in the slow movements. Lubin is a thoughtful player with interesting ideas on the music, and he plays with real lyrical warmth—there are delicate touches of timing that embody real poetic feeling...I would urge Mozartians to lend an ear to Lubin's pensive and poetic pianism.
Stanley Sadie, Gramophone, England
The best fortepianists add something crucial to the understanding of early keyboard music. Steven Lubin, for example, with his Mozartean Players, makes music with the instrument...his playing is clean, unmannered, and deeply musical.
Tim Page, Elle
Live Orchestral Reviews
It was a sound that had absolutely nothing in common with the Mozart concerto performances we all grew up on...the textures sounded natural, intimate, beautifully balanced.
Harold C. Schoenberg, The New York Times
The performances were quite stylish, with tempos and dynamics always seeming absolutely correct...the playing of the small instrumental group was invigoratingly in character...[Lubin is] perhaps this country's leading exponent of the fortepiano.
Bill Zakariasen, New York Daily News
Although authentic performance practice is all the fashion these days, the actual live confrontation with familiar music in the "new" guise can still shock the ear. An example was provided Tuesday night in Alice Tully Hall...the result was fascinating to hear, and it was equally fascinating to observe how quickly the ear adjusted and then returned, refreshed, to the music at hand. Mr. Lubin is not just a scholar; he is a musician, too. His playing justified the fortepiano not through its sound alone, by through the artistry that he brought to his interpretation.
John Rockwell, The New York Times
The Mozartean Players Classical Orchestra is an admirable and much-needed addition to New York musical life...Its Friday evening concert at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, under the direction of Steven Lubin, was both musically and historically rewarding. Mr. Lubin led from the fortepiano, on which he also offered bracing performances of two Mozart concertos.
Tim Page, The New York Times
Most of the pleasures of early-instrument Mozart were to be had at one point or another in the Friday concert of the Mozart Players Classical Orchestra at the Metropolitan Museum...Steven Lubin played the quick outer movements [of Mozart's Concerto K. 467] with splendid dash. The fast scalework for once sounded virtuosic. On a fortepiano, the soloist can let it rip at full force, whereas on a modern instrument a certain restraint—arguably appropriate but certainly slanting our idea of the music's character—is necessary to make what is thought of as tasteful Mozart.
Will Crutchfield, The New York Times
Other Selected Review Excerpts
The Mozartean Players are in a class by themselves.
The players here are leading American exponents of classical instruments, but they are not dogmatic in approach and the performances they offer are full-size ones, not delicate Dresden-china miniatures. There are moments when an almost Romantic passion breaks through. There is no lack of full-blooded and vigorous playing.
Stanley Sadie, Gramophone
The Mozartean Players in the Caramoor Festival's opening concert carried on admirably. Mr. Lubin was impressive in the ensemble works...his stamina, in spinning out so many exposed and unforgiving passages cleanly, was remarkable. Myron Lutzke played with no showiness but unfailing eloquence. And for all his finesse, he did not hesitate to summon a gritty earthiness where appropriate. An excellent evening of music.
James R. Oestreich, The New York Times
I breathed the air of the eighteenth century during the performance.
Michael Redshaw, Alberta College Conservatory Newsletter
The full cheeky fury of a Haydn presto became bristlingly apparent in the hands of such virtuosos as these. Together the combination of expertise and energy was unbeatable.
Gordon Sparber, Winston-Salem Journal
The playing is sensitive and the performers exhibit a consummate understanding of the music. Steven Lubin is a master who fully understands the musical qualities of the Viennese fortepiano. He sings through his instrument with warm, rich tone and always in perfect balance with the violin and cello. Violinist Stanley Ritchie is one of the finest interpreters of 18th-century music. His musicianship, especially as expressed through phrasing and articulation, is unsurpassed. Myron Lutzke, cello, provides a perfect bass for the ensemble, always bringing his part to the fore when the cello line is significant and then quickly retreating to support the other players. Lovers of Classical chamber music and anyone who appreciates great ensemble playing will relish this recording.
Thomas Curtin, Sinfonia Review
A fabulous successor album to the same group's priceless recording of Mozart Piano Quartets. Here the 18th-century instruments glow in deep security. Mozart lovers must have this set in order to rediscover one of his great cycles of chamber works played with glorious instrumentation and with an amazing depth of sound. Desert Island Mozart. (Harmonia Mundi 2-CD 907033/4)
The Magic Flute, Vancouver
They are delectable, for they are sufficiently "unbuttoned" to allow the familiar, intimate character of these works to come through. The listener doesn't knit his brow, but is transported, dreaming, to a far-away place. Can this, too, be Mozart? This journey to a gossamer cloud?
Paul Meunier, Télérama, France
Wonderfully enjoyable, unbuttoned listening. The Mozartean Players are an American period-instrument group and their performances are delightful. Steven Lubin's fortepiano delivers cool, glittering streams of tone set perfectly against the lithe, crystalline quality of Stanley Ritchie's violin and Myron Lutzke's lean, resinous cello. The problems of balancing this combination of players using modern instruments dissolve into thin air. Lubin in particular doesn't have to worry about clouding the strings, and the music itself really does gleam with freshness and vitality. All in all this new release leaves competition standing. My Beaux Arts box is gathering dust already.
Terry Blain, Classic CD, England
The instruments of Mozart's day were quieter than their present-day counterparts, more intimate in their discourse. But Steven Lubin and company find a richness of subtle inflection in music and instruments, and the results are wonderfully alive. As with speaking softly, this kind of music-making can be the most vivid of all.
Scott Cantrell, Kansas City Star
Following upon a splendid Mozartean disc devoted to the piano quartets, the Mozartean Players take the same happy approach to these six trios. And it is not just owing to their period instruments that these three musicians are able to weave a subtle, even insouciant, fabric of sound. Their Mozart is maturely and deeply considered: sometimes somber, or crisp, even while smiling. None of which stands in the way of magnificent moments of emotion. In this meeting of minds at the highest level, going beyond mere considerations of color, the Mozartean Players succeed in bringing animation and a structural perfection to their exquisite art.
Philippe Venturini, Le Monde de la Musique, France
The Mozartean Players' version afforded me all the more pleasure on account of its perfect aura of intimate charm. They proceed in a leisurely way, like old friends, with a finesse of style and delicacy of sensibility. One finds oneself dreaming, ravished by the exquisite naturalness of poet-interpreters who bring one back to times gone by.
Jean Hamon, Répertoire, France
The Mozartean Players play on so high a level as to leave virtually nothing to be desired. The historical performance-practice approach acts to make the music sound altogether richer, more varied, more colorful; it puts the instruments together in a fittingly pre-ordained relationship to one another.
Giselher Schubert, Fonoforum, Germany
These trios are excellent: well-phrased, incisive and full of humor (the allegro of K.254, delicious), lyrical in the slow movements, dancelike when precise, exacting technically (the variations in K.564). In short, first-rate.
Benjamin Fontvella, CD Compact, Spain
Here we are dealing with the complete trios, six in number, in performances that perfectly carry out what these works call for: they are consummate and breathtaking. Particularly noteworthy is the harmony with which the three musicians play and work together to bring to hearers a Mozart far beyond the usual run of Mozart performances.
Robert Strobl, Alte Musik aktuell, Germany
Far better than merely accomplished are the performances by the Mozartean Players, the American period-instrument ensemble made up of pianist Steven Lubin, violinist Stanley Ritchie and cellist Myron Lutzke. In their traversal of the six completed Mozart trios, the Mozarteans epitomize cutting-edge style, with lively tempos, pertinent, enhancing ornamentation and the rhythmic freedom we had until recent years mistakenly considered appropriate only to music of the Romantic era.
Herbert Glass, The Los Angeles Times
The precarious balance between the usually dominating piano and opposing string forces, usually subordinate, is rarely so well soved as in this recording. The Mozartean Players trio, here reinforced by violist David Miller, has left the childhood growing pains of the early-music movement far behind. Virtuosity, a lively spirit of ensemble playing, expressive phrasing and rhythmic flexibility throw the character of each work into high relief.
Joachim Draheim, Das Orchester, Germany