Fanfare

Sadly, this review must also serve as an obituary. Shortly after making this recording, Anthony Goldstone died at the age of 72. I think of him as a typically British pianist in the sense that his technique was as good as everyone else’s, broadly speaking, but he never went to the bank with it. He preferred to carve a niche for himself by playing and recording good old music that many flashier pianists would never bother with. (Just look at the headnote.) Yes, he was a Schubert specialist (he and his wife Caroline Clemmow recorded all of that composer’s four-hand music), but if you look at his Divine Art discography, you will find entire discs devoted to the music of Vladimir Rebikov, Reinhold Glière, Sergei Liapunov, and so on.

“It is believed that all these pieces are receiving their premiere recording in piano form,” is what we are informed by the booklet. Elsewhere, “most [of these] works are existing transcriptions although amended and improved (especially in the Debussy) through Anthony Goldstone’s unerring skill.” So who did these transcriptions anyway? Your guess is as good as mine. The booklet note doesn’t tell us. This didn’t decrease my enjoyment of the music, though.

I think a good phrase to describe much of this program is “cultured, but impudent.” There’s a lot of very French nose-thumbing in these works, especially from Francis Poulenc, Henri Sauguet, Jean Françaix, and Maurice Thiriet. All were born within 13 years of each other, and they had much in common. For example, Thiriet’s ballet (its title can be translated as “The Cooked Egg”) concerns three young ladies who arrive in Hell, having been turned into chickens. It ends with a “Cancan final endiablé.” Thiriet’s score, as presented here, nods not just at the cancan but also at Gershwin-like pop, French music hall genres, and mock sentimentality. It’s goofy, but never slipshod or gross. Now I am curious about the original versions, but good luck at finding recordings of most of those. Goldstone shows us a good time with this last disc of his, and he opens up several doors whose existence I was unaware of until now. He also makes a good case for Printemps, nobody’s favorite Debussy score.
My only complaint is that the latter is the only score that Goldstone plays in toto—everything else comes to us in slices and chunks. Maybe he did us a favor by choosing the best bits!

If Goldstone was ailing when he recorded this disc, there’s no sign of it in his playing. Everything is up to his high standards. You won’t exclaim over his technical prowess, and you won’t be scandalized over his interpretations. Instead, you’ll feel like you’ve been taken on a unique and interesting trip to France by an agreeable, experienced tour guide—someone with a sly twinkle in his eye who nevertheless would never make a “blue” joke, be rude to the vicar, or drink too much sherry. Thank you, Anthony Goldstone, and may all your pianos in heaven be in tune!

—Raymond Tuttle