Listeners to these discs may well find themselves asking how it is that Anthony Goldstone can play this well and not be better known. On this evidence he is a Schubertian of the first rank, combining in equal measure the qualities of imagination, intellectual grasp and alert keyboard command necessary in that composer’s elusive mature style.
Now in his late fifties, the Liverpudlian Goldstone has had a long relationship with these works, and in committing them to disc he has initiated a project distinguished by a determined individuality and a dedication to the spirit of the composer. Each disc is designed effectively as a balanced recital programme culminating in one of the last sonatas.
Goldstone’s playing is at once personal, flexible and spontaneous. He allows himself a fair degree of rubato at times, but balances this with an overarching concern for the architecture of the work with the result that everything fits perfectly into place. His choice of tempi is mostly excellent, with ideas allowed plenty of space to develop whilst not becoming sluggish and room for variation of tone-colour and voicing that is often very beautiful.
My only sight disappointment was that he did not find a better edition of the Wanderer Fantasy; hence the classic misprints of the first edition, such as the missing chord at 2:30 in the first movement, and, much more seriously, the missing D natural immediately before the Presto, are writ large for all to hear. Here, too, Goldstone’s approach at times stops short of the ease of the true virtuoso, although what he does is always elegant and never less than artistically successful.
However, in the remaining works Goldstone is at his best, playing with a naturalness that sounds as if we are eavesdropping on private music-making. His readings of the two late sonatas are most distinguished, with a spiritual focus that lifts them above the ordinary. The warmth with which he approached the slow movements is particularly notable, with that of the B flat sonata in particular receiving a performance that shows a profound understanding of its multi-faceted structure. Goldstone is perhaps more viscerally human in this music than more “intellectual” and restrained artists such as András Schiff, but this is a quality that certainly should not count against him; it is simply the outcome of the natural exuberance of his art. You would certainly have to make a conscious effort in order not to enjoy the charm with which he displays the myriad twists and turns of the finale of the G major sonata, or the variations of the B flat Impromptu. At the same time, he is alive to the suggestions of tragedy hidden beyond the surface despite taking a less bleak attitude to the B flat sonata than some (notably Kovacevich).
All lovers of Schubert will want several versions of these works, but I would suggest that Goldstone’s are among the most generally recommendable and make for a thoroughly rewarding listening experience.