Monday 3 February 2014

Anthony Goldstone plays Tchaikovsky ballet transcriptions and paraphrases in brilliant fashion on a 2013 release from Divine Art Records

It is easy to overlook some of the fine British artists that have given us pleasure for many years. One such artist is Anthony Goldstone one of Britain’s most respected pianists.

Born in Liverpool, he studied at the Royal Manchester College of Music, where his piano professor was Derrick Wyndham and, later, in London with Maria Curcio, one of Schnabel’s greatest pupils, making him a sixth-generation pupil of Beethoven. International prizes in Munich and Vienna and a Gulbenkian Fellowship launched him on a busy schedule of recitals and concertos. His travels have taken in concert appearances in Europe, North and South America, Asia, Africa and Australasia, with prestigious festival invitations and very many broadcasts. Numerous London appearances have included important solo recitals and Promenade Concerts, notably the Last Night, after which Benjamin Britten wrote to him, ‘Thank you most sincerely for that brilliant performance of my Diversions. I wish I could have been at the Royal Albert Hall to join in the cheers.’

Goldstone has always regarded the classics and romantics as being at the heart of his repertoire, a view that is illustrated by two past recording projects, firstly a series on the Divine Art label of rare Russian Romantics including Rebikov, Lyapunov, Arensky, Glière and Mussorgsky; and secondly a series of six CDs on the Divine Art label devoted to the major solo works of Schubert.

Complementary to the mainstream repertoire is his interest in exploring intriguing musical byways, leading to première recordings and performances such as Elgar’s Enigma Variations played on Elgar’s own piano, Parry on Parry’s own piano, Sibelius, Bruch, Franck, Mendelssohn and Holst as well as unjustly neglected nineteenth-century composers such as Goetz, Herzogenberg, Alkan and Moscheles.

In addition, Anthony Goldstone and his wife Caroline Clemmow  comprise an acclaimed piano duo whose recordings, broadcasts and concert appearances receive wide praise from public and critics alike. Their acclaimed seven-CD cycle of the complete original four-hand music of Schubert, including works not found in the collected edition, is probably a world first. Goldstone’s completions and realisations of several works by Schubert and Mozart have been greeted with enthusiasm by musicologists and listeners alike.

Royal Manchester College of Music have honoured Anthony Goldstone with a Fellowship and, following a recital containing Schubert’s Wanderer-Fantasie and Beethoven’s Diabelli-Variations, Die Presse of Vienna wrote of him, ‘…a musician with a sense of the grand manner, long lines unfolding without interruption, strongly hewn rhythms, warmth, a touch displaying the qualities of colour and cantabile, in addition to possessing a sure technique and real strength. An even greater impression was created by his astonishingly profound spiritual penetration.’

Somehow I managed to miss a 2013 release from Divine Art Records that reveals many of these attributes, entitled Tchaikovsky Rare Transcriptions and Paraphrases Volume Two, a disc that contains a number of premiere recordings.
The Concert Paraphrase on The Sleeping Beauty by Paul Pabst (1854-1897) a pianist, composer, and Professor of Piano at Moscow Conservatory, commences with Lisztian chords, played brilliantly by Goldstone before the waltz from Act One arrives bringing a crystalline beauty. It is wonderful how Goldstone holds the structure together so well. The Lilac Fairy’s music again has a pinpoint clarity before the return of an elaborate version the waltz, fiendishly difficult and with muscular precision by this pianist.

Pianist, conductor and composer Alexander Siloti (1863-1945) was a fine pianist, having studied with Liszt. He was also a first cousin and teacher of Sergei Rachmaninov. With his transcription of Act III of The Sleeping Beauty there is a clarifying of all of Tchaikovsky’s lines especially as played here. In the March Goldstone reveals this clarity with wonderful articulation. Polacca draws much feeling from this pianist, shining a new light on this music and exposing many subtleties of harmony. The Pas de quatre: Allegro, Variations I – IV and Coda has a nicely shaped Allegro and some beautifully crisp playing in the variations before the lovely little coda played to perfection.

Pas de caractère: Le Chat botté et la Chatte blanche receives a beautifully characterised performance with lovely phrasing and subtly building in intensity as it progresses. Goldstone draws out so much personality from the music. Pas de quatre: Adagio – Variations I and II – Coda opens with lovely little rhythms as the right hand figuration dances over the repeated left hand chords; the central, more flowing theme so affectingly played. It is Goldstone’s phrasing and sense of form that gives such clarity. The two variations bring a lovely dance theme for Cinderella and Prince Charming, followed by the skittish little second variation. The charming Coda has a slight dissonance that one wouldn’t notice in the orchestral setting – almost Satie like. Goldstone has the ability to characterise these pieces so well. 

Another Pas de caractère follows, Chaperon rouge et le Loup where, again, those dissonances are brought out with fine control of dynamics in the concluding passages. A buoyant Pas de berrichon with a terrific ending is followed by the languorous Pas de deux: Entrée. Then follows the Pas de deux: Adagio and two variations and Coda. The beautiful Adagio is given an exquisite performance here with its halting phrases holding back the emotions. Goldstone builds the music to its central climax to perfection. The galloping Variation I is followed by delicate crisp playing of the second variation and the cross rhythms of the Coda, with spectacularly fine playing form Goldstone. Before the Finale and Apothéoso there is a reserved and stately Sarabande. The Finale is full of joyful exuberant dance rhythms before a dashing coda that nevertheless has many subtle shadings. The Apothéoso has at times a Mussorgskian flavour which again shows, in the right hands, how revelatory this transcription can be.

These are extremely difficult transcriptions to bring off without the cover of orchestral clothing and that Goldstone does so in such brilliant fashion is a testament to his musicianship.

Paraphrase on Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker – Percy Grainger (1882-1961)

Grainger gives this the romantic concerto treatment in the opening, yet for all his flamboyance he does create subtleties that are brought out here. For Goldstone, Grainger’s massive chords present no problem and, when the famous waltz eventually appears in its pretty conventional treatment by Grainger, there are still huge chords to manage. This is impressive playing with Goldstone creating some rich sounds in the huge chords and some lovely Lisztian little flights of fancy.

This performance is an absolute triumph.

Finally we come to Nikolai Kashkin’s (1839-1920) transcription of Swan Lake: Pas de trois (Act I) another professor at the Moscow Conservatory. Goldstone creates a gorgeous pianistic flow in the Intrada, such a surge in the opening.  The gently withdrawn Andante Sostenuto has so many subtleties and lovely gentle rhythms, lovingly played. There is a crisp dancing Allegro semplice – Presto full of charm and a bell like Moderato, so very Russian. The Allegro is light and vivacious and leads to lively rhythmic Coda that hides some pretty dexterous notes played brilliantly to end this disc.

With an excellent recording and informative booklet notes by Anthony Goldstone lovers of Tchaikovsky and Russian music in general will want this disc.

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