Musical Pointers

It’s well-known that before recordings, piano reductions were the only easy way of getting to know orchestral and ensemble repertoire. So listening to, or even playing such arrangements is a privileged form of access into the 19 th century musical mind. Goldstone and Clemmow have done much admirable work in reviving and recording this repertoire, as had the Duo Crommelynck on Claves (Brahms symphonies and another Dvorak New World, for example) before they tragically ended their own lives.

Schubert wrote relatively few chamber works in relatively many forms; therefore it is compellingly interesting to see how they translate to piano duet, the form in which he above all composers is the acknowledged master. No real surprises – in the trios, but especially the Notturno and the slow movement of D898, one misses the sustaining power of the strings. On the other hand, in the Arpeggione Sonata, which we almost always hear ‘transcribed’ for ‘cello anyway, the range and capacities of the piano four hands more than compensate and make the work arguably more pleasant than the original.

Does it matter if the arrangement is by the composer or not? Of course, how a composer himself transfers textures (Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op 14/1 in string quartet version) is always especially interesting, even more so if he was unsure what the best form was for (Brahms Piano Quintet.) But other transcriptions are significant for the transcriber’s philosophy (Busoni, Liszt), or occasionally have surpassed the original in popularity, perhaps in technical quality ( Pictures from an Exhibition ). Von Gahy was a friend of Schubert’s, as the notes explain; he made his transcriptions with immense fidelity to the text; they sound entirely idiomatic and consistent with the one original work on the disc, a duet written to commemorate this friendship.

Bright detailed recording, committed playing, good notes and design; if you want to hear these works as piano duets, no reservations.

—Ying Chang