How do you put together a recording that is guaranteed to be a hit with both Music 101 students and more seasoned listeners? Here is one brilliant idea: Collect approximately 75 minutes of highly accessible music by composers born under or inspired by Spain’s beautiful, carefree sun and have one of today’s best piano duos record it. That pretty much sums up Delicias, the latest disc issued by the British duo of Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow. I have to confess that upon receiving this recording and being greeted by its rather over-the-top, colorful cover design created by fantasy artist Josephine Wall, I wondered what had gotten into these respected artists and prepared myself for the worst. (In case you are curious, the cover illustration depicts two Gypsy dancers floating in midair under a brightly lit moon that holds a pale boyish figure playing the guitar.) A minute into Chabrier’s delightful España all was forgotten, and I accepted this recording for what it is — plain old fun that does not pretend to be anything else.
Yes, it is true that most of this recording consists of guilty pleasures. The aforementioned Chabrier piece, the transcriptions of Lecuona’s hit Malagueña and Rodrigo’s famous Adagio from the Concerto de Aranjuez, the spunky piece by the little-known composer Cecile Chaminade, Saint-Saëns’s infectious Jota aragonese, and Tárrega’s charming Gran Vals certainly fit in that category. But these light treats are served alongside slightly more consistent dishes —Granados’s haunting The Maiden and the Nightingale (the fourth piece from Goyescas), Falla’s ever-lovely Nights in the Gardens of Spain, and Rimski-Korsakov’s vital Capriccio espagnol. In the end, therefore, I doubt that anyone will walk away from this recording feeling hungry.
The performances are superb. I am not entirely certain how this husband-and-wife team splits primo and secondo responsibilities, but their playing has a unity of purpose that makes that detail largely irrelevant. It is particularly impressive how the pianists treat all of the scores with respect and manage to avoid ever sounding cheesy. The engineering is excellent, as are Goldstone’s informative notes.
Some parting words. Listeners who enjoy playing the “where have I heard that before?” game will probably notice that the jota featured in the Saint-Saens piece also shows up in Franz Liszt’s famous Rhapsodic Espagnole. I doubt, however, that anyone who has not heard the Tárrega piece is ready for this piece of trivia: In 1993, approximately four seconds from this piece were chosen by Nokia to be the ring tone of its mobile telephone, and that bizarre historical accident likely makes the Tárrega piece —or at least a few seconds of it—the most instantly recognizable and most often-heard work in the history of music. How about that? Enthusiastically recommended.
Looking forward to the release of this organ and harpsichord album later this year. Wouldn't mind seeing more images of the beautiful Holy Name Church in Manchester where it was recorded either! twitter.com/sirbasme…