Gramophone

An ingenious programme combining the familiar with a clutch of novelties.

After “A Night at the Opera” (A/08), the piano comes to the carnival. Next year we are promised a trip to the ballet. In another of his typically imaginative and enterprising programmes, Anthony Goldstone frames three familiar piano carnivals (those by

Schumann, Chopin and Liszt) with three world premieres: a transcription of Khachaturian’s Masquerade Suite by Alexander Dolukhanian (1910-68); the Fantasy on three themes from Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera by Sydney Smith (1839-89), the Dorset-born pupil of Moscheles famous for his once-popular myriad works that combined “a maximum of brilliancy with a minimum of difficulty” ( Grove , 1899); and Dvorák’s Carnival Overturn ingeniously transcribed by Paul Klengel.

There is no lack of flair and finesse in the performances, among them the first I have ever heard of the Chopin variations played at what was surely the intended (brisk) tempo. At times, though, a certain doggedness creeps into the execution. It is not lack of fluency or musicality but, noticeably in the Dvorák arrangement and sections of the Schumann, the feeling of a job being done. Perhaps Goldstone has taken on too much too quickly, for his laudable eagerness to share his wide-ranging enthusiasms sometimes results in efficient rather than inspired performances. On this occasion, the piano (a Grotrian of no specified vintage) sounds as though it needs new felts; it lacks the richness of tone of some other makes – or at least sounds so as recorded here. Nevertheless, an enjoyable disc-with-a-difference complemented by the pianist’s own exemplary booklet.

—Jeremy Nicholas