Good Chopin recordings are so readily available nowadays that the dedication behind each of them is too easily forgotten. Whether it is a short selection of the 24 Études or one of the full-scale works, pianists, conductors and orchestra members alike invest great energy to make each performance a special tribute to the composer’s creative genius.
Fond personal relationship and musical compatibility should never be taken for granted. In their latest recording with Divine Art , husband and wife team Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow have taken up the formidable task of presenting Chopin pieces rescored for two pianos. After a quarter century and with three dozen acclaimed CDs behind them, the British pair is today counted amongst the world’s premier piano duos. This collection covers the rare version of the Piano Concerto No.2 for two pianos and the world première of various Chopin-Goldstone compositions.
Elegance is instantly recognizable in the duo’s reading of the Concerto with one part contributed by Chopin and the other by one of the composer’s notable students, Carl Mikuli (1819-1897). This arrangement balances poetry with thrills and colour. The reduction never sounds cheap on the piano. What makes this work a favorite in today’s performing world is its lyricism and probing inwardness. This arrangement has found the ideal interpreters in Goldstone and Clemmow.
The remainder of the CD concentrates on shorter musical gems. Listen to Mr Goldstone’s delicious reworking and blending of the Chopin Revolutionary Étude [Op.10 No.12] and the Raindrop Prelude [Op.28 No.15] into what he calls the Revolutionary Raindrop Rag . You will find yourself hard to resist the toe-tapping beat – pure fun. Goldstone’s creative talents do justice to the language of Chopin yet add a teaspoon of contemporary music idioms.
Chopin’s love for the voice came out in his songs and in his love for the Rossini operas. The Chopin Songs are notably the best in the Polish repertoire. The Variations on a Theme of Rossini – the only known work from the composer written for the flute and the piano – is an early piece from 1824. It is based on the aria ‘Non più mesta accanto al fuoco’ from the finale of Rossini’s opera Cenerentola. The Variations shared the same time-frame as the wonderfully ambivalent Rondo in C Minor , his Op. 1. Chopin accorded the flute some lovely tunes but underplayed its possibilities. With Goldstone’s piano duet version fuller justice is done to the flute’s grand and florid themes.
This programme can at times be a little sugary. Take as examples the Chopin-Corder Valse in D Major Op.64 No.1 or the Brahms-Goldstone Études after Fr. Chopin [on extending the Étude Op.25 No.2]. However, the emphasis is on tunes and on displaying the duo’s pianistic skills: legato, rippling passage-work and ringing chords. Essentially we are treated to the whole Romantic stock-in-trade except for the darker emotions. The duo focuses on the soulful and the lyrical.
Chopin was one of those rare pianist-composers who rose above style and period. Without a little Mozartean elegance, the Romantic ardour would be buried. Too much excitement does this music no good either. Goldstone and Clemmow know exactly where to take you with this music.