Monday, 26 March 2012

Who likes the Nokia ring tone?

I was lucky enough to be at a top notch two piano recital by Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow at Millichope Park in Shropshire last Friday. Described by Gramophone magazine as ‘…a dazzling husband and wife team,’ this was phenomenal playing by any standards. The opening work was Frank Bury’s Prelude and Fugue in Eb, a really fine work written in the 1930’s. Millichope Park was the home of Frank Bury and is still in the same family. I particularly enjoyed the wonderful performance of Schumann’s Andante and Variations in Bb minor that followed. These two pianists have a stunning accuracy and play as if they were one.

Anthony Goldstone has undertaken a lot of work on unknown, incomplete Schubert piano works. In this recital it was Mozart’s fragments of a second sonata for two pianos that he had brought to a performing version and it proved to be a major addition to the catalogue.

After a scintillating performance of Chopin’s Rondo for two pianos in C major, came Gershwin’s own two piano arrangement of An American in Paris. Frankly this was, for me, the highlight of the concert with Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow really showing how they could do jazz and swing.

As an encore the duo played a piano four hands arrangement by Anthony Goldstone of Francisco Tárrega’s Gran Vals. This innocuous piece suddenly surprises after about 14 seconds with the tune that Nokia chose in 1993 for their ringtone.  Quite a novelty but poor old Tárrega will never live it down.

I’ve been listening to Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow for some years now and admire their wonderful artistry in a wide variety of repertoire from Mozart and Schubert to contemporary works. They now record for Divine Art records  and have recently recorded some of those unknown, incomplete Schubert works, this time for piano duo.   

                                                              Divine Art 25026

                                                              Divine Art 25039

Entitled ‘The Unauthorised Piano Duos’, Volume 1 of these two CDs includes a two piano version of the famous Trout Quintet. No Schubertian should be without these fascinating discs.
There is much great music in fine performances to discover from these two fine pianists but for more information go to the Divine Art website .

 Two CDs that I have recently acquired are:

Divine Art

Divine Art
The first disc entitled Delicias (delights) includes some substantial pieces, not the least of which is the first recording of an evocative two piano version of Manuel de Falla’s Noches en los jardines de España (Nights in the Gardens of Spain) spectacularly played by Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow.

There is a sparkling performance of Chabrier’s España and a thoughtful and poetic performance of Granados’ Quejas ó la maja y el ruiseñor (Laments or the Maiden and the Nightingale).

The Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona (1895/6-1963) was of both Cuban and Canary Islands decent. Here we have Malagueña from his piano suite Andalucía evocatively played.

Joaquin Rodrígo, though a prolific composer of works for many other instruments, is known all over the world for his guitar concerto Concierto Aranjuez. This attractive two piano version of the slow movement works extremely well, with the guitar part reproduced note for note on the piano in a sensitive performance by these pianists.

Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944) was a fine composer whose piano works have been recorded by Eric Parkin on Chandos . Her lively piece La Sévillane for two pianos shows very clearly the amazing precision of these two pianists.

Saint Saëns looked to the Aragon region of Spain and its folk music tradition for his La Jota aragonese, which proves to be an attractive piece.

The master orchestrator, Rimsky Korsakov, wrote his orchestral work Cappricio espagnol in 1887. Given the wonderful orchestral writing, one would think that a piano duet version would lack the colour and interest of the original but the composer’s own piano duet version is quite a stunning alternative that brings much of the colour and variety of the orchestral version, particularly in this vibrant performance.

Finally there is the piece by Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909) and, as this is again a first recording, it will probably be the only chance most people have of hearing that Nokia tune in its original context. It’s certainly great fun.

The second disc is called ‘The Jazz Age’ and includes Gershwin’s two piano arrangement of an American in Paris that I heard at the Millichope recital. It’s a spectacular opening to this wonderful disc.  I have to confess that I am not a great enthusiast of Gershwin but this performance is terrific, catching all the various moods of this piece. I also think the Gershwin’s two piano version seems to hold together better than the orchestral version. Certainly in this great performance it does.

Edward Burlingame Hill (1872-1960), an American from Massachusetts who studied under Widor, is one of two composers on this disc that I have not heard of before. His Jazz Studies for two pianos cover a variety of moods that are more dance than jazz. Amongst Hill’s output are symphonies and concerti which I would certainly like to hear.

Darius Milhaud’s La Création du Monde is probably one of his best known pieces and in this piano duet version by the composer of his ballet, bluesy and jazz elements permeate an otherwise more serious work, which is played to great effect by these pianists.

The Slovakian, Alexander Moyzes (1906-1984) also wrote symphonies but here we have his Jazz Sonata for two pianos in which the duo bring out the various layers of this music, concluding in a richly dissonant finale. Once again these pianists play as if one.

Mátyás Seiber (1905-1960), the other composer unknown to me, was born in Budapest and studied under Kodály. Here we are given a selection from his Easy Dances for piano duet where each miniature has a varying mood from Foxtrot to Rumba before ending with a Charlston. These moods are perfectly caught in these exquisite performances.

The disc ends with two works that act as light encores, Hoagy Carmichael’s Star Dust in Louis Merkur’s two piano arrangement and another piece by Gershwin, this time a piano duet arrangement of Embraceable You. Light they may be but they are perfectly formed and perfectly played.

Both of these CD’s are beautifully produced with excellent notes by Anthony Goldstone. The recordings made in St John the Baptist Church, Alkborough, Lincolnshire are first rate.

I urge collectors to try these discs and especially an American in Paris – what a great piece that is in this performance.

In my next blog I want to look at why Finland has produced so many fine contemporary composers.

See also:

Playing of astonishing brilliance from Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow in works by Mussorgsky, Alfven, Ibert, Lyadov, Britten and Ireland

The music of Brian Chapple in mesmerising performances by Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow

Original Planets from the brilliant piano duo Goldstone and Clemmow


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