Saturday 28 February 2015

Piano duo Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow bring impressive playing to piano duet arrangements of works by Rimsky Korsakov including a world premiere recording for Divine Art

Surely Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow  are Britain’s finest piano duo. They have made an impressive collection of recordings for Divine Art Recordings  to which can be added a recent release of transcriptions of works by Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov (1844-1908).

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This new disc couples this duo’s earlier recording of Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade and Neapolitanskaya pesenka with a World Premiere recording of the composer’s Symphonic Suite ‘Antar’ often referred to as his Symphony No. 2, all in piano duet (four hands) transcriptions.

Scheherazade, Op. 35 is played here in the composer’s own piano duet version. No listener could fail to be impressed by the fine opening of The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship, with Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow bringing a real weight to contrast with the beautifully delicate and poetic passage that follows. They provide a lovely rhythmic sway as Sinbad’s ship takes sail with this duo’s fine precision, bringing so much to this performance as does their silken fluidity. There are some exquisite little phrases with the accuracy between these players quite brilliant. They rise to moments of fine power, bringing a breadth and grandeur that is impressive, beautifully pacing the music right up to the lovely, gentle coda.

As The Story of the Kalender Prince develops one is aware of so many fine colours that are revealed, different with each player. There is a clarity and lightness of touch with many passages that reveal this duo’s fine articulation.  They slowly build the drama with finely controlled rubato before a fine conclusion.

The Young Prince and the Young Princess brings some lovely fluent playing, fine sweeps of sound and terrific scales with a scented Eastern flavour. This duo bring a lovely variety of colours and textures in the broader passages, full of atmosphere, conjuring up so much of Rimsky Korsakov’s original orchestral brilliance with a lovely little coda.

Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow pull out all the varying moods and atmosphere of the final movement Festival at Baghdad – The Sea with some brilliantly played faster passages. There is terrific accuracy here, lovely sweeps of music with a fine authority and panache. Again they bring so many fine moments with lovely colours, textures and rhythmic turns, the music positively glowing at times before the very fine coda.

They receive a first rate recording from the Royal Northern College of Music.

The arrangement for piano 4-hands of Rimsky Korsakov’s Symphonic Suite ‘Antar’, Op. 9 (Symphony No. 2) was made by the composer’s wife Nadezhda Purgold and is given the World Premiere recording here.

The opening of the first movement, The Desert - The Rescue - Gul-Nazar's Gifts, is developed beautifully as a sense of mystery finally gives way to a lovely melody. The music develops rhythmically, building to a brilliant moment finely played by this duo, who bring a real depth to the textures. They handle all the sudden little rhythmic phrases so well and deliver the flowing melodic passages with such lightness of touch and finely judged forward flow. When Rimsky Korsakov overlays both melodies this duo are a real joy in the way they take each theme. There are some exquisitely delicate moments and finely coloured passages before a very fine coda.

The Joy of Vengeance rises dramatically, with these players revealing some fine harmonies. As they forge ahead they reveal some lovely dissonant harmonies revealing this work to be full of quite advanced ideas for its time, something not so obvious in the orchestral original. Again their accuracy is superb, a quite stunning example of piano duet playing. The coda receives some especially fine, subtle shading.

The Joy of Power brings the timbre of Russian bells before a lovely melody arrives, these players bringing soft, flowing delicacy that nevertheless glows beautifully. The music rises full of breadth and melodic flow before a particularly fine passage where rhythmic and melodic elements overlay.

There is a beautifully laid out opening to the final movement, The Joy of Love - Antar's Death, with exquisite phrasing and beautifully delicate phrases. This duo is terrific in the way that they can slowly build such passages, subtly developing the music right through to the coda when Antar dies.

Just as I often listen to Rachmaninov’s two piano version of his Symphonic Dances so I will return to this piano duet version of Antar especially when played so finely as in this performance.

This brand new recording made in St. John the Baptist Church, Alkborough, North Lincolnshire, England is first rate.

The Neapolitanskaya pesenka (Neapolitan song) (after Denza), Op. 63 is here given in the version for piano 4-hands by the composer and casts off any melancholy as this famous tune races ahead, full of good humour and fun,  these players obviously enjoying it immensely with lively crisp playing and terrific flair.

There are excellent booklet notes from Anthony Goldstone and, as ever, Divine Art’s production standards are first class with a nicely produced booklet.

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