THE PIANO AT THE CARNIVAL • Anthony Goldstone (pn) • DIVINE ART 25076 (76:31)
KHACHATURIAN Masquerade Suite. SCHUMANN Carnaval. CHOPIN Souvenir de Paganini. LISZT Hungarian Rhapsody No. 9, “Carnival of Pesth.” S. SMITH Read more class="ARIAL12bi">Fantaisie brillante on Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera.” DVO?ÁK Carnival: Overture
Inspired programming from Divine Art, here. The arrangement of the famous Khachaturian suite is by Alexander Pavlovich Dolukhonian (1910–68), husband of the famous mezzo Zara Dolukhanova and, apparently, chess champion of Armenia in the late 1920s. It is a marvelously managed transcription, lightly edited here by the present pianist, Anthony Goldstone. This is a premiere recording, and well worth seeking out, not least for the brightly lit exuberance of the third-movement Mazurka. Goldstone also conveys the sweet melancholy of the Nocturne and the Romance well, while the madcap antics of the final Galop are pure fun.
The mainstay of this recital is, of course, Schumann’s magnificent op. 9 Carnaval. Here Goldstone’s pianistic fluency serves him well. Schumann’s perilous leaps are made to sound easy. The capricious “Arlequin” has a real spring in his step; “Eusebius” is wonderfully ruminative (although the slightly dry acoustic of St. John the Baptist Church, Alkborough, robs the music of some of its wonder). Most importantly, Goldstone is able to maintain clarity of articulation at considerable speed. Perhaps Goldstone’s accents in the final “Marche des Davidsbündler contre les Philistins” are a touch on the barbaric side, but this remains impressive nonetheless.
Goldstone does not head the list with his Schumann, but this is a notable, and often beautiful, reading. I agree with Susan Kagan about the integrity of Myra Hess in this piece. Kagan was reviewing the Philips “Great Pianists of the Century” release in Fanfare 23:3; I would like to add the Music & Arts BBC performance of October 1950 on APR 5646.
The Chopin Souvenir de Paganini (on Carnival of Venice) is a beautiful way to follow. Goldstone’s fluid legato is a joy. Goldstone entertains still more in the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody. Occasionally he is a little dry of pedal, but still it is easy to revel in the sheer virtuosity of it all. He is no Cziffra (EMI), to be sure, but this remains an exhilarating ride, and to Goldstone’s credit he seems intent on underlining the more progressive writing contained here.
English-born Sydney Smith (1839–89) was a pupil of Moscheles. His brief Fantaisie brillante on Verdi’s “Ballo” (1861) takes three numbers from act I: “O figlio d’Inghilterra,” “La revedrà nell’ estasi,” and “Alla vita che t’arride.” This is a modern premiere recording (there was a piano roll made in around 1919). Goldstone has the time of his life. In his notes, Goldstone makes the point that “the sparkling coda reveals Smith’s familiarity with Mendelssohn’s piano concerto.” I would argue the influence is detectable elsewhere, also. Finally, an arrangement of Dvo?ák’s Carnival Overture by Paul Klengel (1854–1935). Readers may be more familiar with Paul’s brother, Julius (1859–1933): Christopher Williams reviewed a disc of Julius’s cello concertos issued on cpo in Fanfare 25:6. Paul’s arrangement of Dvo?ák’s masterpiece of festivity results, alas, in one of the more unimaginative experiences of the album. A shame, as this is the last music we hear. Buy this disc, instead, for the Khachaturian and the Smith, and be entertained along the way by the Schumann, the Chopin, and the Liszt.
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.
-- Gary Higginson, MusicWeb International Read less
Works on This Recording
Masquerade: Suiteby Aram Khachaturian Performer:
Anthony Goldstone (Piano)
Period: 20th Century Written: 1941; USSR Notes: Arranger: Dolukhanian.
Carnaval, Op. 9by Robert Schumann Performer:
Anthony Goldstone (Piano)
Period: Romantic Written: 1833-1835; Germany