It doesn’t need a rationale to enjoy this evocative and delightful disc but the exploration of east/west music is the one advanced by Anthony Goldstone. To that end we have a veritable geographical expeditionary force to track down works here that were transcribed, or originally written, for piano duet or for two pianos.
Adam Gorb’s Yiddish Dances was originally written for symphonic winds in 1997 but has been reworked for piano duet in 2003. It’s marked by infectious brio and the recitativo opulence of the Doina, the ebullience of the Freylachs and all the narrative drama of his chosen material. And how instructive to follow this with Saint-Saëns’ Caprice Arabe, which as Goldstone astutely points out, contains a seeming evocation of the Terkishe one of the other movements from Golb’s Yiddish Dances. It argues for the rhythmic and melodic duality of music such as this, its ability to mutate in different cultures.
Beni Mora is, like the Caprice Arabe, well known enough but not necessarily in this two piano version arranged by Nora Day, dedicatee of two of Holst’s piano pieces, and edited by Goldstone who has clarified the text by referring to the orchestral score. I like the way Goldstone and Clemmow allow the elastic pull of the dances to make their full effect on the listener, how adroitly the little bass fill-ins animate the first dance, how the tension of the second derives from those left hand repeated notes. In fact the ostinati here are infectious as is the cornucopic pictures Holst summons up.
McPhee’s Balinese Ceremonial Music proves pure hypnosis once again, with the final Taboeh Teloe perhaps shading it in inventiveness and rhythmic vivacity. Mayer’s Sangit Alamkara Suite was written in 1988 and utilises a prepared piano that evokes the sound of a sitar – it involves plucking of the bass strings as well. For all that there is real chordal depth and a noble tune (slow, romantic) embedded in the central section of Jawab-sawal, itself the central movement of the five. This is splendid music, ending with a moto perpetuo of flickering bass pointing in the Gaud Mallar Taan – made all the more enticing for its reflective stops amidst the hurtling drama. We also visit In the Steppes of Central Asia in Borodin’s own duet version – adeptly accomplished – and Achron’s Hebrew Melody, a warm harbour for big toned fiddle players and here in the arranged Auer arranged Goldstone version.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable disc. That it’s also musically elevated, in performances of sweep and sensitivity, and splendidly recorded, is no surprise. Ornithologists will note the Golden Oriole on the booklet cover, a bird that ranges as freely as the music enshrined therein.