Steven Lubin  pianist and fortepianist

Reviews

Modern Piano and Fortepiano

"Delivered with a heroic conception—it was a performance to remember."
—Will Crutchfield, The New York Times [for a roundup of 41 New York Times notices, go to New York Times Coverage]

"Lubin proved to be not only a great pianist, but a Mozart interpreter of genius, one of the finest before the public today."
—Eric de Gaudemar, Le Méridionale (France)

"A masterly performer... he exhibited a brilliant technique and the artistic sensitivity that puts virtuosity where it belongs: at the service of great musical interpretations."
—Carl Cunningham, The Houston Post

"Steven Lubin's playing is beautiful, clean, precise, graceful and yet resolute, and he achieves moments of profound intensity."
—Laura Poli, Musica (Italy)

"Perhaps closer to what Beethoven heard in his imagination than anything recorded before."
—Stanley Sadie, Gramophone (UK)

"The debut of his current Spanish tour could not have been a happier beginning. He played with a captivating liveliness and brilliance, and totally dazzled his listeners."
—Juan Angel Vela del Campo, El Pais (Spain)

"With great stamina, the soloist balanced modernist complexities with angular melodies...with a spirit of fresh adventure he thundered through the rolling octaves and colossal chords that link this work [Prokofiev 1st Concerto, with the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra] with its great predecessor, Tchaikovsky's 1st Concerto."
—Jennifer Weininger, Worcester Telegram and Gazette

"Lubin is a splendid pianist, a virtuoso of the keyboard."
—Giovanni Toffano, Il Mattino (Italy)

"This performance [of Mozart's Piano Concerto K.488] has now replaced Haskil's for me as my all-time favorite!"
—Geijutsu (Japan)

"One is consistently gripped, thrilled, by what he does. What he can do with a fortepiano, what he manages to get out of it, no one else comes close to achieving."
—Robert Strobl, Alte Musik aktuell (Germany)

"Steven Lubin is the best Mozartean of the present generation."
—Phil Muse, Creative Loafing, Atlanta

"Lubin is a complete master of his instrument, he commands the imagination to enliven Mozart's ideas, and he possesses the musical intellect to perceive and render the inner architecture of each movement."
—Richard Perry, Whig-Standard (Canada)

"Lubin astonishes in Mendelssohn—yesterday's listeners heard an impassioned Mendelssohn [Concertgebouw, Amsterdam]... the altogether raging energy of the music-making, the sheer joy in playing, overwhelmed the listeners."
—Ernst Vermeulen, NRC Handelsblad (the Netherlands)

"Steven Lubin proved an excellent soloist and partner in Mozart's Piano Concerto No.20 [with the Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg]. A virtuoso of the highest order, he strove for crystalline clarity of tone and line."
—Daniel Buckley, Tucson Citizen

"Lubin has an unconventionally unified and contemplative concept of this extraordinary work [Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition] and the technical equipment to set it out effectively."
—John D. Wiser, Woodstock Times

"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."
—Allan Kozinn, Pulse

"As one of the foremost American fortepianists, Lubin has learned how to make the music come vibrantly alive—his phrasing was elegant and, in the [Haydn] E-flat Major Sonata, the vigor of the drama was urgently and majestically realized."
—Charles Ward, Houston Chronicle

"I believe that any attentive listener will instinctually respond to the wonderfully civilized manner in which Lubin blends his various disciplines on his recordings—one of today's most accomplished and engagingly communicative fortepianists."
—Peter G. Davis, New York Magazine

"Accomplished and adroit keyboard artistry came to San Juan last Wednesday night in the person of Steven Lubin. He conferred on Beethoven the same agitato intensity and interest in athletic digital technique that had distinguished his Haydn..."
—Mark Staebler, San Juan Star (Puerto Rico)

"Lubin was a guest artist at the International Espoo Piano Festival and his concert was extraordinarily fine—he showed himself to be a musician to his very fingertips."
—Mikael Kosk, Hufvudstadbladet (Finland)

"Perhaps this country's leading exponent of the fortepiano."
—Bill Zakariasen, New York Daily News

"Many listeners think of Beethoven's First Piano Concerto as the dawning of the new romantic era, and keyboardist Steven Lubin suggested just that [Ravinia Festival]. This was a First Concerto of remarkable imagination, wit and lyrical grace."
—Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune

"Steven Lubin is the brilliant soloist—his technical and artistic capabilities appear to be utterly limitless."
—Robert Strobl, Alte Musik aktuell (Germany)

"An exceptionally satisfying recital by a seasoned professional who presents the music with secure technique and a directness of rhythm and phraseology. With Chopin's B-minor Sonata, Lubin confirmed that he is not a period-instrument practitioner by default. He posseses the technique to do justice to the most demanding 19th-century literature."
—Herbert Glass, Los Angeles Times

"His playing is clean, unmannered and deeply musical, virtuosic but never ostentatious."
—Tim Page, Newsweek

"Steven Lubin's fortepiano playing is like quicksilver in its scintillating lightness of touch. Although he dominates the performance, it is an artistic dominance..." (Trout Quintet recording for Decca)
—Ivan March, Gramophone (UK)

"Lubin's performance was admirable: the music was very solidly in his fingers, and he played with conviction, lyricism, and a complete command of the style."
—Harlow Robinson, Musical America

"Never has the dark-hued passion of the D-minor Concerto been so fully realized as in Lubin's almost daemonic reading."
—John Bauman, Fanfare

"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

"Lubin's pianism has a freewheeling joie-de-vivre...he is deeply concerned with phrasing and shaping, and that concern makes his performances eminently worthwhile."
—Harris Goldsmith, Musical America

"The interpretations are fast, lean, and incisive... yet always governed by shapely, flexible phrasing..." [review of Decca Beethoven Concerto-cycle reissue]
—Jed Distler, Gramophone

"Blisteringly virtuosic."
—Neville Cohn, The West Australian (Perth, Australia)

"He played in a manner reminiscent of Canadian wonder Glenn Gould." [Bach 5th Brandenburg, Youngstown Symphony]
—Robert Rollin, Youngstown Vindicator

"Lubin's performance takes the breath away."
—Kitty Montgomery, Daily Freeman, Kingston, NY

"Steven Lubin's affinity for the subtle palette of the fortepiano has made him one of the leading specialists in the instrument. His secure, sensitive playing provided a strong foundation for the animated performance."
—Tim Smith, Baltimore Sun

"He brought out all the glory of Beethoven and Chopin."
—Joseph McClellan, Washington Post

"Steven Lubin, one of the world's leading performers on the fortepiano, was the soloist at the Meyerson Symphony Center, [and] justified his exalted reputation. He dived to the heart of the music's drama."
—Lawson Taitte, Dallas Morning News

"He played with warmth and virtuosity." [Debut, Carnegie Recital Hall, 1977]
—Allan Kozinn, Music Journal

"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... 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. Lubin is astonishingly expressive and imaginative."
—Sharon McDaniel, Palm Beach Post

"Lubin's bold readings stand out: for their rhythmic resilience, for the way Lubin's imaginative articulation clarifies the phrasing (even the most conventional gestures seem freshly minted), for their rhetorical poise."
—Peter J. Rabinowitz, Fanfare

"Music and musicianship trump theory in these touching Mozart concerto performances... Steven Lubin shows here [recording of Mozart's concertos K.449 and 467 on the Classical Soundings label] that ultimately an expert's artistic voice still says more than the instrument used. Universal musical qualitites recommend this disc of two Mozart keyboard concertos... 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 charcter of each movement. Most salient is his approach to the famous Andante of the C major No.21...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 colorful 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 take sides."
—Andrew Druckenbrod, Gramophone

"This interpreter, apart from a marvelous sense of cantabile devoid of sentimentality...is striking for the care he demonstrates in preserving the polyphonic clarity of the text...Lubin's playing is a model of equilibrium and taste...he recreates the essence of Beethoven's music." (CD of three Beethoven sonatas, Decca)
—Alain Cochard, Diapason

"Steven Lubin is obviously a musician of talent and understanding. For me, the evening's best moments came during his performance. He played the opening allegro movement and the final allegro assai with a dazzling facility; each note of every onrushing scale or cluster was individually articulated, yet never mechanical, always fluid. The intervening adagio was marvelously textured and tender."
—Wendy Zomparelli, Roanoke Times and World News



Beethoven Concerto Cycle Reviews:



L'Oiseau-Lyre [Decca] 421 408-2, three CDs, with Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music

Excerpts from some of the favorable reviews garnered, worldwide:

What a joy, this Beethoven cycle—a godsend for the performance-practice partisan that merits comparison even to modern-instrument mainstays like Fleisher and Kempff. Lubin's playing of four different fortepianos is mature and imaginative.
David Claris, Fanfare

Steven Lubin, a renowned fortepiano specialist, seeks to convince, never to shock. His playing, technically very assured, is of a clarity and transparency to which we are not at all accustomed in this repertoire. He possesses the fluidity and grace that suit the earlier concertos so well, but he also knows how to wax ardent and combative in the two mature masterworks. Lubin possesses a singing line of remarkable profundity. The adagio of the Fifth Concerto, as well as that of the Third, are voluptuously poetic. Despite a respect for the letter, the spirit is very much a presence. All of Beethoven is in evidence here, with its gripping contrasts and its play of shadow and light.
Francis Albou, Répertoire [France]

Steven Lubin provides miraculous solo playing on four different fortepianos to mark different stages of development during Beeethoven's life. It can be easily recommended as the best recording of the Beethoven concertos in the catalog.
Jonathan Richmond, The Tech [MIT]

Steven Lubin's playing is beautiful, clean, precise, graceful and yet resolute, and he achieves moments of profound intensity, as in the Adagio of the Emperor.
Laura Poli, Musica [Italy]

The just-released recording of the five Beethoven Piano Concertos results from a collaboration between the American pianist Steven Lubin and the Academy of Ancient Music, directed by Christopher Hogwood—and it is in fact phenomenal. A virtuoso soloist playing four different copies of Viennese pianos loses none of the specialness of each—he draws out all the instruments' finest nuances, without ever thereby losing the forest for the trees.
Musik-Journal [Germany]

If we play the concertos in the order in which they were composed, we do sense a 'growth' in the form, and Beethoven's mastery of it; but the playing style varies appropriately, so that the parts of this series are as interesting as the whole. Most of the tempos seem just about right, and the pacing of movements are thoroughly convincing. The technical standards are high: the solo playing is virtually flawless, the orchestral articulation very clean.
William Drabkin, Early Music

The set is an arresting, controversial experience. Lubin's pianism is extremely cultivated, and Hogwood stresses clarity and rhythmic verve.
Allan Ulrich, San Francisco Examiner

You'd better listen. These recordings challenge the status quo as much as or more than previous efforts of this kind. It is almost as if the early-instrument approach permits the musicians to be forthright and lyrical, and full-blooded and dramatic, without having to be either eccentric or academic. The real proof is in the pudding. And what a pudding! What matters is that the sound is right, and so are the tempos, the phrasing, the larger architecture, the drama.
Eric Salzman, Stereo Review

The Lubin/Hogwood set is not only the first complete series of these pieces on period instruments but also, I think, a set of great performances.
Leslie Gerber, Fanfare

Lubin achieves an extraordinary color range in the solo parts, within the seeming limitations of nuance of the historic pianos, and elicits from each instrument its maximum of tonal charm. It is generally astonishing how all the painstaking scholarly research for this project in no way diminishes its artistic impact. The recordings burst with vitality, and are as unlike bloodless academic test-tube samples as they could possibly be.
Joseph Oehrlein, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [Germany]

The whole performance has plenty of vitality. Lubin has many sensitive details of timing, shaping the music attentively, sometimes pushing urgently towards a cadence: all very aptly tuned to the vigorous, fiery young Beethoven.There is a lot of tension in Lubin's playing, with a certain amount of holding back and pressing forward as his view of the musical sense demands; the effect is of a large-scale performance, of the kind that keeps one on the edge of one's seat. Perhaps closer to what Beethoven heard in his imagination than anything recorded before.
Stanley Sadie, Gramophone [England]

Here is a very bold step into little charted waters. Lubin uses four different pianos: I like best the pungent piano in the bustling First Concerto, and the sturdy one used for the Emperor, which attains a steely eloquence in the slow movement. These are no-nonsense readings, sharp-edged and often very exciting.
Nicholas Kenyon, The Observer [England]

With the release of all Beethoven's piano concertos played on historical instruments, it is clear that some kind of milestone has been reached in the early music movement. Mr. Lubin plays with full conviction; he knows how to build a climax, to "take it away" toward the end of a cadenza, to underline a crucial point. This is a set everyone interested in the Beethoven concertos should have, fascinating for what it adumbrates and satisfying for what it achieves.
Will Crutchfield, The New York Times

The performances are excellent. I suspect that many listeners will prefer Lubin/Hogwood to all others in this highly competitive field.
Joseph McClellan, The Washington Post

Lubin uses the extra clarity of the fortepiano very tellingly and, though speeds are on the brisk side, he is never extreme, and slow movements are allowed to breathe and find poetry and repose. Hogwood accompanies with freshness and resilience, and the recording is attractively vivid.
Edward Greenfield, The New Penguin Guide [England]

For the listener who has heard the Beethoven concertos played only on modern pianos, any one of Lubin's realizations is startling enough to make it seem as though the concerto is being heard for the first time. From the standpoint of technique and musicianship.Lubin's [are] shapely, animated, and always brilliantly articulated accounts.
James Wierzbicki, Musical America

Lubin's pianism has a freewheeling joie-de-vivre that serves to inspire conductor Hogwood. Lubin is deeply concerned with phrasing and shaping, and that concern makes his performances eminently worthwhile.
Harris Goldsmith, Musical America

Lubin proves adept at drawing contrasts and building them in varied and interesting ways. Lubin's special insight and imagination and intense lyricism [contribute to] the success of his venture.
Jonathan Richmond, Christian Science Monitor

Authenticity in the narrowest sense is not the primary issue here. There is no attempt to produce a precious or quaint sound; on the contrary these pieces are bold and spacious in their interpretation. This is a very welcome and definitive performance. There is no doubt among several reviewers that this set will become the standard against which all future authentic instrument performances will be compared; with these recordings in your collection, you really will not need a "modern"-instrument version at all.
Jim Pollard, The Blue Note

Steven Lubin uses four different instruments for the five concertos, and readily justifies that in the development and expansion from no.2 (the first written) through to the Emperor. The articulation of passagework is sparklingly clear in a way virtually impossible on a modern Steinway. Slow movements have the lyrical poetry and repose one needs. Even in the hushed question and answer of recitative at the end of the Adagio of no.2, with its amazing anticipation of Beethoven's last period, Lubin conveys on his light-toned instrument the necessary weight and gravity. In no.3 Beethoven's own big cadenza for the first movement comes out marvellously well, with the flurries of figuration in their new clarity more than usually conveying the flavour of what a Beethoven improvisation must have really been like.
Edward Greenfield, The Guardian [England]

If these recordings become the standard period instrument performance of Beethoven's piano concertos, it will not simply be because this is the first complete cycle available on CD. Steven Lubin does not merely play Beethoven on the fortepiano. He transforms the instrument from a quaint antique into a powerful and intriguingly individual musical voice. It is Lubin's command of each musical moment that contributes the decisive human dimension to the impact of his instrument's distinctive sonorities. This inspired collaboration between Lubin and Hogwood's Academy of Ancient Music stands impressively on its own as a legitimate and substantial interpretation of Beethoven's great cycle of concertos. With this set in your library you really don't need a "modern" version. All of the expressive shading is here, and all of the sweeping dynamics too. It's the real thing.
Tom Vernier, Digital Audio & Compact Disc Review

Less than twenty years for a cascade of revolutions that takes us from the classical Mozartean mold to the titanic daring of the "Emperor!" It is just this individuality that the complete Lubin-Hogwood edition succeeds in restoring to each of these pages. It is aided in this by the pianist's choice of instruments; he demonstrates decisively to what extent the master's writing was a consequence of instrumental innovations. This would not suffice to cause a stir, however, if it were not supported by a liberty of playing and phrasing, a search for supple and free sonorities that recreate a delightful spirit of surprise and a sense of improvisation.
Serge Martin, Diapason [France]

There is plenty of personality in these performances, particularly from the pianist. Any set that gives us such excellent performances, so well recorded, and provides us the opportunity to hear old music with new ears deserves a strong recommendation. I'm especially glad that the worthy playing of Lubin, a superb artist, will be getting this wide exposure.
Leslie Gerber, Fanfare

I'll not give up any of the great sets of the past: Schnabel/Sargent, Fleischer/Szell, Kempff, or the various recordings by Curzon, Gould, and the like. But this one will certainly take a place of honor with them. Though I find all of the performances entrancing, the passion which Lubin brings to the Third is especially attractive. In the Emperor we find the whole emerging with a new-minted splendor. One can imagine how boldly original this music must have sounded in 1809 when originally heard!
John Bauman, American Record Guide

Listening to these discs, one realizes how this work has been accomplished without a trace of pedantry. The performances are, from all perspectives, truly exemplary: Lubin and Hogwood have reached a level, in the care with which they phrase, in the quality of the sounds they produce, in the pure beauty of the music-making, that would be awfully hard to surpass.
Fernando de Carli, Compact Disc [Italy]