International Piano

Schubert’s keyboard music has never had it so good. Recordings abound and this pair from Anthony Goldstone entitled ‘The Piano Masterworks, Vol 3’ is the last in the set that he says, ‘were intended to offer a series of balanced recital programmes’. But could the Ländler, the Allegretto (completed by Goldstone) and the Diabelli Variation be called masterworks? Well, the rest unquestionably are. Goldstone also completes the unfinished Relique, and fills in the four bars missing from the second part of Variation I in the slow movement of D845.

Goldstone the composer is to be admired, but Goldstone the pianist raises reservations. And the Impromptus offer an indication of the variable nature of his responses. He raises expectations in Nos.1 & 4 by his ability to grade dynamics down to a genuine pianissimo, to shape the left hand triplets in the First and play the C sharp minor section in the Fourth with refined passion. But No.2 shows a different side. The tempo is fast enough to suggest an exercise in passagework, while the B minor middle section hints at aggression rather than power. Subtle tone colouring gives way to spiky presentation.

It is a major shortcoming, and one that recurs in the sonatas, limiting Goldstone’s exploration of their emotional compass. The fortissimo/sforzando octaves in the development of the first movement of Relique are rhythmically fluid, but the shock of their extreme nature is reduced because all the pianissimos that precede them are too loud. Goldstone’s feel for phraseology and motion are notable. So is his sense of rubato, as in the Scherzo of D850, but he rather debases its value by not tying such flexibility to fine dynamic shading. The slow movement markedly exposes this weakness and you only need turn to Clifford Curzon (Decca 473 116-2) to hear a range and depth of expression that seems to elude Goldstone. Chameleon-like, though, he comes up trumps in the first movement, heady in pronouncement, the long line nevertheless intact.