Anthony Goldstone is something of a miracle. He has recorded over seventy CDs – some solo and some as a duet – being half of the Goldstone and Clemmow (his wife Caroline) duo. He learns quickly and is willing to explore a wide and often untapped repertoire. The back of the booklet proclaims “This is one of a series of three CDs containing rare and dramatic transcriptions and paraphrases”. There are some pieces here that I never dreamt could exist for solo piano. And above these words is a sketch of one Paul Klengel, a highly regarded transcriber who turns the Carnival Overture of Dvorak into an amazing romp, well beyond the ability of most pianists. This work, which ends the disc in a flourish, sums up the whole enterprise.
All of the pieces have a connection with carnival and general gaiety. Aram Khachaturian’s ‘Masquerade Suite’ was compiled from music for his full-length ballet. Alexander Pavovich Dolukhanian who transcribed the five sections recorded here was Armenia’s Chess Champion at one time. As if the transcription wasn’t busy enough Goldstone comments in his notes that “I have made modifications in order … to restore orchestral detail omitted by Dolukhanian for the purpose of simplification”!. Brought up on the old Light Programme as I was, the opening Waltz, regularly heard, is an old favourite. There follows a Nocturne, a Mazurka, a gorgeous Romance and then a hectic Galop.
Sydney Smith was the darling of society ladies. Apparently his music sounded very challenging but “had a minimum of difficulty” according to a contemporary critic but even Anthony Goldstone admits that his ‘Fantaisie’ is “quite difficult”. Three themes are played within this pot-pourri. In addition a seamlessly flashy coda is appended making a satisfactory conclusion. I would like to hear more of Sydney Smith.
In 1829 Chopin heard Paganini play a set of variations around the barcarolle called ‘Le Carnival de Venise’ and was astonished by his virtuosity. He attempted a (brief) work of his own on this famous theme in homage to the great violinist.
Some composers made transcriptions, as it were, of their own music, Liszt who regarded himself at the time as the Paganini of the piano wrote no less than nineteen ‘Hungarian Rhapsodies’. This one “Carnival of Pesth” is neatly organized with a main melody which reminds me, I’m afraid, of ‘There’s no place like home’. Goldstone’s notes analyse the music nicely without being too technical and he slides over the virtuosity making the piece sound quite facile.
This stuff is all very well, I hear you cry, but what about a bit of substance? Well that is provided by Schumann’s ‘Carnaval’, his set of twenty quirky, individual – indeed eccentric – piano pieces. It’s entirely possible that you already have a recording of this piece, say on an all-Schumann disc. At thirty minutes in length it does take up almost one third of the CD. Yet there is little amiss about Goldstone’s performance. You might feel, like me, that a little more humour is needed in the Pierrot and Arlequin movements which are a touch heavy-handed. You may want a little more tenderness in ‘Chiarini’ a code word for Clara (Wieck – later Schumann). Paganini makes another appearance in the ‘Valse Allemande’ which perhaps could be a little more flashy. Nevertheless there are many good moments too. Schumann’s two egos, Eusebius and Florestan, are well characterized and the virtuoso ‘A pause’ comes out brilliantly. The finale ‘Marche’ brings the sequence to a spirited end.
Something of an unusual disc, but nicely planned and shedding some fascinating insights on the whole idea of a ‘mardi-gras’ for piano solo. Perhaps you might feel that it’s a bit of a ‘dog’s dinner’ but my wife is going to play it “often” in the car she says. I hope that the Carnival atmosphere does not affect her driving too much.