Saturday 4 July 2015

Phenomenal playing from Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow on the latest release from Divine Art in their Schubert series The Unauthorised Piano Duos

Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow  continue to add to their impressive catalogue of recordings for Divine Art with the third volume in their series Franz Schubert: The Unauthorised Piano Duos.

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Anthony Goldstone is something of a Schubert specialist having recorded three volumes of Schubert Piano Masterworks for Divine Art

As a piano duo Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow have already recorded piano duo arrangements of Schubert’s Trout Quintet and Overture to Rosamunde (Volume 1) and Piano Trio in B flat major, D. 898 and Arpeggione Sonata (Volume 2) all containing many other fascinating and rewarding Schubert arrangements. 

This new release has just two works, Schubert’s Death and the Maiden Quartet arranged by Robert Franz (1815-1892) and the Unfinished Symphony which combines Anton Hüttenbrenner’s (1794-1868) transcription of the first two movements with Anthony Goldstone’s own transcription of Schubert’s sketches for the third movement and Friedrich Hermann’s (1828-1907) arrangement of the Entr’acte in B minor from Rosamunde acting as the finale.

The Allegro of the String Quartet in D minor, ‘Death and the Maiden’, D.810 opens with a great assurance, this Duo bringing out all of the intensity and forward drive of the original. They reveal so much of Schubert’s wistfulness and passion whilst providing an accuracy that is quite frankly phenomenal. But there is much more. Their sense of poetry, contrasting Schubert’s many moods, brings so many rewards. Theirs is quite simply an intuitive partnership.

There is a hauntingly withdrawn opening to the Andante con moto before it moves through some wonderful variations, quite mesmerising in these artists’ hands. They have a fine subtle rubato, beautifully controlled with limpid piano sounds, making this music seem so right for the piano. Indeed, one soon forgets that it was originally a quartet. It is wonderful how they slowly build the music in concentration and power. Later, there is an exquisitely delicate passage, beautifully done before the music builds again with both these fine pianists bringing a terrific concentration before the sad resigned coda.

The Scherzo and Trio: Allegro molto has a lovely buoyancy and a Trio section where this duo hold a fine balance between charm and nostalgia.  The duo’s fine, light and lithe touch opens the Finale: Presto - Prestissimo finale with playing of such energy, panache and drive. They follow every detail and nuance with spectacular intricacy bringing a terrific gallop to the music and weaving through some terrific passages of great strength and power. They bring a fine restraint in some passages moving quickly to a terrific coda.

This is great Schubert.  

Despite its title Schubert’s Symphony in B minor, ‘Unfinished’, D.759 and D.797/1 was not the only symphony to be left incomplete (see my blog from March 2012 ). Indeed, Schubert was notorious for laying aside many works before completion.

In the Allegro moderato of Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow’s piano duo performance of the symphony they bring a lovely restraint to the opening that contrasts so well with the stormier passages. There are many thoughtful, haunting, intensely searching moments. One soon finds oneself forgetting the orchestral clothes of the original; such is the power and poetry of this performance. There is an emotional pull in this movement that is often missed in many orchestral performances with the coda bringing a sense of emotional ambivalence.  

The Andante con moto has a directness of utterance in the opening theme before the second subject brings a more withdrawn reticence offset by passages of intense passion. Every turn of emotion is perfectly caught here, this duo picking up on so many of Schubert’s subtle little moments of melancholy. They imperceptibly ratchet up the drama each time the opening theme re-appears, again offset by the most exquisitely poetic moments.

The Scherzo and Trio: Allegro - Poco meno mosso receives a lovely dance like swagger yet harmonically there seems to be an emotional cutting edge, something that this transcription and performance reveals. There are passages of restrained power brilliantly caught.

For the Finale: Allegro this duo use, as in other ‘completions’, Schubert’s Entr’acte in B minor from Rosamunde giving the music a lighter air. – This duo brings out so many fine moments revealing this as a ‘movement’ with moments of great variety and power before a terrific coda.

This is an impressive series from Britain’s premiere piano duo. The recorded sound from St. John the Baptist Church, Alkborough, North Lincolnshire, England is first rate. Anthony Goldstone provides the excellent booklet notes.

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