International Record Review

Tchaikovsky’s orchestral music, not unlike Rachmaninov’s , lends itself wonderfully to piano transcriptions and paraphrases—magnificently colourful and contoured, immaculately graded and given to long-breathed gestures, which push ever forward in intensity to reach climaxes of enormous power and grandeur. Much of the composer’s romantic essence finds its way into piano versions and I can quite see why Anthony Goldstone has turned his attention, first to the orchestral and operatic music, and in the next instalment to the ballet music.

Three of the four works included on this first disc for Divine Art appear on record for the first time, although only one of these was transcribed by Tchaikovsky himself. Goldstone has become increasingly interested in recording his own realizations of Schubert’s and Mozart’s music for four hands, and his busy international career performing with his wife Caroline Clemmow has led to recordings on Divine Art and Toccata Classics in which a strong Russian theme is steadily emerging. Pianists frequently think orchestrally , while of course many orchestral composers work out their ideas first at the piano, such is the potential for cross-fertility. As Goldstone reminds us, Tchaikovsky heartily approved of eloquent transcriptions of his works, as in many ways such endeavours served to honour the music and guarantee its circulation beyond larger auditoriums.

March Slave, Op. 31 (here transcribed by Herbert Hanke) was composed in support of the Serbian/Turkish war in 1876 and has a suitably rumbustious , patriotic overtone to it, ably captured by Goldstone. It works very well as the opening item, with its catchy illumination of the melodies and a confidently projected sense of the orchestral version. Potpourri on Themes from the opera ‘Voyevoda’ (transcribed by Tchaikovsky) also emerges as in interesting, fulfilling work for piano. While Voyevoda did not get the most auspicious of inceptions, with hold-ups and mishaps getting in the way, it all came together well in the end. The opera fell into disrepair following initial successes, however, which encouraged the composer to produce this delightful mélange of highlights for piano. Goldstone manages to make the piece hang together very sturdily, tackling head-on the pseudo-orchestral effects and coaxing out a velvety cantabile tone.

The third of Tchaikovsky’s Orchestral Suites is arguably the most performed, with the ‘Theme and Variations’ (all 12, based on an original-theme) working beautifully as a stand-alone work (transcribed by Max Lippold and Goldstone), prompting this enticing and consistently alluring performance from Goldstone. The Serenade in C major, Op. 48, also transcribed by Lippold and Goldstone, was written at the same time as the 1812 Overture, not that any musical resonances can be felt between the two works, and all four movements have been skilfully negotiated for execution at the piano keyboard. The ‘Valse’ is especially well lifted from the page and would work very well as a concert piece in its own right, while the finale (‘Temo Russo’) serves as a delightful closer to the disc, shrugged off with impressive effortlessness by Goldstone.

The disc overall emerges as a creditable project, no doubt distracting Goldstone for some considerable time, not least in contributing to two of the four excellent transcriptions and in the writing of full, detailed booklet notes. His efforts are complemented by a warm, well-captured sound from Divine Art—I look forward to hearing Goldstone’s second instalment featuring Tchaikovsky’s ballet music.

—Mark Tanner