The Schubertian (July 2003)

Following a seven-CD cycle of all Schubert’s original four-hand piano works with his duet-partner and wife Caroline Clemmow, Anthony Goldstone has with this present volume now completed a survey of Schubert’s late great works for solo piano. Each disc is devised as if it were a recital and each concludes with a major sonata. This allows for a light-hearted opening to Goldstone’s programme with a posthumously assembled set of Ländler that eminently suit Goldstone’s fluidity of tempo. Also included in his programming is the first set of Impromptus of 1827.

For the most part it is the sonatas for piano that characterise these discs. Each of Schubert’s sonatas presents difficulties for the performer, and with the D Major sonata a pianist is taxed by a work that Schubert had created especially for the professional performer and teacher Karl Maria von Bocklet. Anthony Goldstone has at his command all the necessary virtuosity for this piece, but here surely we encounter virtuosity in excess, the hands taking charge of the music. The joyous and ebullient first movement is weakened by its extremely high speed, and whilst Goldstone is known for his fast tempi, here the listener is left with the constant feeling of excessive haste, and regrettably the delight inhabiting the music seems to have become squeezed out. In the final movement sudden and unexpected rushes in the tempo often cause the music to feel as if it is continually falling forward.

Happily, the gravitational centre of these discs, the unfinished ‘Reliquie’ sonata of April 1825 and the outstanding Sonata in A minor of May, find Goldstone at his most thoughtful and controlled. This particularly suits the ‘Reliquie’ with its open and spacious first movement. Figuration and general layout suggest Schubert’s mind was subconsciously working towards the conception of the ‘Great’ C major Symphony (D944), for this was to be in gestation through the summer months of the Gmunden-Gastein holiday, probably June to September. The sonata receives a solid and thoughtful performance here, and Anthony Goldstone has followed others in offering his own completion of a work that the composer seems ultimately to have abandoned, no doubt with a mind full of other ideas clamouring to be worked upon. Indeed it was less than four weeks later that the composer was at work on the superb A minor sonata, with perhaps fleeting echoes of the ‘Reliquie’, although in relatively more pianistic terms. On these discs this sonata receives a worthy performance without excesses and with great clarity of articulation; Goldstone’ s composition of the four bars missing from the original edition in the second (variation) movement -Schubert’s manuscript having been lost – sound natural in their place.

Two additional pleasures come in the shape of an Allegretto in C (also completed by Anthony Goldstone) and Schubert’s single Diabelli Variation – and Goldstone should now be congratulated on the completion of his three-volume account of Schubert’s piano masterworks.

—Arnold Howarth