American Record Guide

Gershwin and Ravel work very well together. There was an honest respect between the two men and compositional influence in both directions. This generous collection is a great combination of the best-known works by each composer along with some less familiar works. All except one are in arrangements by their composers, lending an air of credibility to the whole endeavour.

I must admit to being a little protective of Gershwin when it comes to performances by Europeans (British in this instance). My mind goes back to the 70s and a recording called “Gershwin a la Russe”, which had sincere, but very awkward performances of Rhapsody in Blue and the Concerto in F by a Russian pianist and orchestra. Goldstone and Clemmow took only a few pages of Rhapsody to put my fears to rest; they are simply marvelous. No pretentious rhythmic alterations in the name of American jazz style, but a faithfulness to both the composer’s two-piano score and the spirit of his landmark composition.

They switch gears wonderfully to Ravel’s piano duet masterpiece, Ma Mere l’Oye , heard here in a new edition restoring some of Ravel’s original scoring. Note particularly the low gong-like clusters in the middle of ‘Laideronnette, Empress of the Pagodas’. Then back to Gershwin, with the composer’s piano duet arrangement of the Cuban Overture . As one who has learned and performed this arrangement (Gershwin’s only foray into the piano duet idiom), I know how effective an audience-pleaser this can be. I am also painfully aware that the lack of orchestral color and the percussion section rob it of some of its best qualities. I was quite impressed with some blistering tempos, contrasted with the melancholy mood of the central section.

Ravel’s Sites Auriculaires (Soundscapes) for two pianos were new to me and a welcome addition to my collection. The well-known song, ‘Fascination’ is usually attributed to F D Marchetti, but the notes make a strong case for it being an early Ravel piece sold to Marchetti. Goldstone shows off his clever arranging ability (and tongue-in-cheek humor) with an enjoyable arrangement of the song that even manages to include a reference to the closing work, Bolero. **

Before that, we are treated to Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm Variations . Here is the one instance where I missed the sharp, articulated rhythms, sweep and drive that I learned long ago from Earl Wild’s magical recording of this work. The softer edges and more melodic treatment of the material heard here makes for an interesting new take on the work; but finally, I want to pull out Wild’s recording.

I have only the best to say about their performance of Bolero . I assume it is very taxing, with all of the repeated notes, and their ensemble is perfect for the full duration. The duo’s voicing and phrasing make me not really notice the lack of orchestral color until close to the end. Approaching and arriving at the big modulation and the final statement of the theme, I miss the big whoops from the French horns and every percussionist in the orchestra playing away. One piano, four hands just can’t quite match that. Given that Ravel took the time to prepare a piano duet version, I believe it is worth hearing. Goldstone and Clemmow have consistently impressed me with their repertoire choices, musicality and precision ensemble. This release continues the tradition.