This is an aptly named CD. The programme that Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow have assembled is obviously intended to instil, above all, a sense of delight in the listener. They, like Pierre Luboshutz and Genia Nemenoff before them, and Vitya Vronsky and Victor Babin, and many other piano duos, are a married couple. If their marriage is characterized by as much zest and harmony as their playing here, then their relationship must be felicitous indeed.
Goldstone and Clemmow have recorded nearly 40 CDs, many for Divine Art. Sooner or later, a Spanish-themed album is practically de rigueur for classical recording artists, and Goldstone and Clemmow have assembled theirs from versions prepared by the composers themselves (Chabrier, Rodrigo, Rimsky-Korsakov, Saint-Saëns) or by other hands. Thus, it appears that Cécile Chaminade’s La Sévillane is the only work here specifically intended for two pianos. This programme is a mixture of music for piano duo one piano, four hands, in other words and two pianos. This is made apparent by the recording engineers, who widen the sound-stage when two pianos are involved. This recalls the early days of stereophonic sound (remember Juan García Esquivel?) when music endearingly ping-ponged from one speaker to another in every self-respecting bachelor¹s pad. Divine Art¹s engineers have also contrived to present the pianists in an acoustic that is warm and resonant, albeit with no loss of detail.
Much as I like Esquivel, ‘Delicias’ is a more refined treat more savoury than sweet. In other words, this is more than a gimmick, and more than a collection of picture postcards, even if the music is rather on the light side. The success of the recital, and of the performances, is driven home in the two-piano arrangements of Nights in the Gardens of the Spain and of the second movement from Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez . Both of these are concertos, of course. One ‘A. Bertram’, of whom nothing seems to be known, arranged the second piano part of the former, and Rodrigo himself arranged the second piano part of the latter. In concertos, advanced piano students are used to being accompanied by a second piano, in lieu of an orchestra, but what is acceptable in the practice rooms of a conservatory is not always agreeable in one¹s listening room at home. It is to the credit of ‘A. Bertram’, as well as Goldstone and Clemmow, that Falla’s work is not reduced to a monochrome and that the piano parts are of equal interest. (The original piano part seems to have been left alone.)
As for the Concierto de Aranjuez , interpreting guitar music for the piano is another challenge altogether. Rodrigo anticipated this in a solo piano arrangement of this movement (Aranjuez, ma pensée), but that doesn’t take away from the success of what Goldstone and Clemmow present here. It would be a cliché to say that I hardly missed the guitar. Nevertheless, when one has a melody as good as this one, it is almost impossible to go wrong with it. (Some readers might remember Isao Tomita¹s synthesizer arrangement of this movement in the 1970s. It was, and still is, a guilty pleasure for me.)
Rhythmic slackness would be particularly damaging in a programme of Spanish or Spanish-inspired delights. Fortunately, Goldstone and Clemmow don’t miss a trick, and their playing here is precise without becoming pedantic. There is abundant colour in their pianism too; try the shimmering timbres one minute into the first movement of Nights in the Gardens of Spain and ask yourself if the piano is truly a black-and-white instrument, both inside and out.
Goldstone, in addition to his outstanding pianism, and his arrangement for piano duet of Francisco Tárrega’s Gran Vals , originally for guitar, also wrote the booklet notes for this release. No raiding of Wikipedia here: Goldstone put considerable research into these notes, and they are informative as well as friendly.
I played this CD multiple times over the course of two days and at no point did my enjoyment and admiration diminish. As February is a disagreeable month throughout much of the northern hemisphere, might I suggest 29 hibernation days, accompanied by a bottomless pitcher of sangria and a copy of ‘Delicias’?