Before the advent of recording in the late nineteenth century, the piano transcription was amongst the most popular means to get orchestral music to the masses. While many composers rushed to get their own transcriptions out before the hacks beat them to the punch (and the money), there are also hundreds of fine examples of great composers transcribing the music of other greats. Liszt’s dozens of transcriptions of the songs of Schumann and Schubert and the symphonies of Beethoven come immediately to mind.
Pianist Anthony Goldstone completes a trilogy of transcription collections with this group of excerpts from popular ballets. His other discs include A Night at the Opera, and The Piano at the Carnival. Mr. Goldstone proves himself a fine arranger as well. In an amply filled disc, Goldstone delivers up some remarkably clean and virtuosic playing. Of particular merit are the excellent renditions of excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s three masterpieces, an exciting rendition of the Ritual Fire Dance of de Falla, and a thundery performance of Dohnányi’s transcription of Delibes’ Waltz from Naïla .
Mr. Goldstone’s playing is full of nuance. It would be fairly easy in this music simply to play loud all the time. This trait is thankfully eschewed. There is a tendency however for many of these arrangements to lie overlong in the upper end of the keyboard, making for a little wear and tear on the ears after seventy-nine minutes. It is also fairly easy to separate the music of the masters such as Tchaikovsky and Falla from the fluff of Minkus. On the whole, however, this a satisfying program. Perhaps it is one that might be best sampled a couple of works at a time rather than listening to it from beginning to end. I confess that as well done as these transcriptions are, there is a sameness of style that gets a little old after an hour or so.
This is the first disc from the Divine Art label that I have had the pleasure of reviewing, and I found the production quality to be of the first order. Interesting and thorough program notes along with excellent sound quality make for an outstanding presentation.