Anthony Goldstone has previously taken the piano to the opera and to the carnival for Divine Art. Once again he serves up a generous and very varied selection of music appropriate to his chosen title. The result is certainly entertaining although there were times when I felt that I was in a dance studio with a rehearsal pianist giving the dancers a reminder or foretaste of what the orchestra would sound like. This was especially the case with the four Pas de Deux that the pianist has arranged himself. Not that these are bad arrangements or that any dance studio would not be delighted to have a pianist of half this skill, but that there is surprisingly little attempt to transform the music into something wholly different, something apparently devised originally for the piano. In this these arrangements differ from, say, the Dohnányi or Falla, and even more so from the Chopin, Joplin and Weber which were originally written for the instrument. They are nonetheless made with great skill and understanding and never sound clumsy.
I did indeed enjoy the various Pas de Deux . Probably as it is the least musically interesting the Minkus was my particular favourite. As Anthony Goldstone says in his very full and interesting notes, this offers attractive melodies and foot-tapping rhythms. I always find something slightly comical about the male solo sections in the Pas de Deux with their exaggerated macho effects, and that from Don Quixote surely goes further over the top in that direction than most. The pause before the coda to the final section is another moment where one immediately imagines the dancers readying themselves for their final exhibition of virtuosity. Maybe these Pas de Deux did make me think of the rehearsal room but with great pleasure at the thought and even greater pleasure at the luxury of such a rehearsal pianist.
One odd man out in the programme is the Mozart. From the notes I learn that the bass lines of eight orchestral pieces survive in the composer’s hand in a manuscript clearly linked with his early opera ( festa teatrale to be more exact) Ascanio in Alba . There is also a manuscript of a group of nine piano pieces the bass lines of two of which correspond with those in the orchestral pieces. From that it may be assumed that the piano pieces are an arrangement of the ballet. This sounds convincing in principle although the pieces themselves are frankly dull even if Anthony Goldstone does his best for them.
He has put the music in a cunning order with the Tchaikovsky and Minkus separated by the other works so that the listener never gets bored with a lengthy succession of music in the same style. This is essentially an enjoyable recital and if it does not set out to be profound it certainly does achieve its main object. It would be hard to be bored by it or finish listening to it other than in a cheerful mood.
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