INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW:
The title of this release is interesting in itself, and a suitable subtitle could be ‘Chopin Favourites and Rarities'. The first three works in the above list are world famous: the F minor Piano Concerto, E flat major Nocturne and D flat major Valse (the Minute Waltz), while Chopin's C major Rondo , Op. 73, and his ‘Rossini' and ‘Moore' Variations are rarely heard, and the Rondo, originally written for solo piano, is performed here in Chopin's subsequent two-piano arrangement. Then there are the Brahms, Sch?tt and Goldstone works, each of them based on a famous piece or pieces by Chopin, but the first two are seldom played, which Goldstone's piquantly named Revolutionary Raindrop Rag was written especially for this recording.
By far the greatest and most substantial piece is the Piano Concerto No. 2, but Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow play it in a two-piano version wherein the orchestral part is given to the second piano, so that even this is at once a favourite and a rarity. The arrangement is of unusual interest, however, because some of its orchestral music (the tuttis during which the solo piano is silent) was arranged by Chopin himself, which in the passages where the soloist is playing, the piano reduction by Chopin's pupil, teaching assistant and editor, Carl (Karol) Mikuli, is used. For those whose first acquaintance with Chopin's works was provided by the G. Schirmer edition, Mikuli's name appears in dark green on many of its bright yellow covers. (The other Schirmer Chopin volumes were edited by Rafael Joseffy.)
Anyone who has ever doubted the clarity, effectiveness and sheer beauty of Chopin's orchestral writing (in both of his Piano Concertos) will have a change of heart after hearing the present two-piano version of the F minor. Whatever reservations one has about it, however, are almost a foregone conclusion that has nothing to do with its performance here, in which Goldstone and Clemmow do their utmost to project the work's wonderful balance between drama and lyricism. Inevitably, the piano-saturated sonority can sound opaque (and the resonant recording acoustic adds to this), which in the impassioned central recitative of the slow movement, the second piano cannot match the effect of Chopin's vibrant string tremolandos. There are also occasional unexpected compensations, such as the bassoon line in the Larghetto's recapitulation, which stands out in even clearer relief than in the orchestral version. A moment of inadvertent humour occurs in the second piano's F major horn call at the start of the coda of the Allegro vivace finale.
The three other original works by Chopin are obviously not on the same level of inspiration, but their unfamiliarity still makes them worth hearing. The C major Rondo begins with a florid, declamatory slow Introduction that features dotted rhythms and some punctuating chords. The Rondo itself passes through some interesting tonal regions that lend contrast to its principal white-note key. The ‘Rossini' Variations are Goldstone's arrangement for one piano, four hands of Chopin's youthful, only known work for flute and piano, on a theme from La Cenerentola , in which the primo (treble) part elaborates the original flute writing. The four-hand aspect returns in the Variations on a National Air of Moore in D major, which is the only surviving duet on a single piano definitely by Chopin.
Goldstone's completion supplies the missing treble or bass parts on the first and last pages of the autograph manuscript, themselves missing and supplied by the Polish pianist Jan Ekier after the work's first publication in 1965. Thomas Moore (1779-1852) was an Irish poet who often invented new words for extant Irish melodies, of which the best-known is ‘Tis the Last Rose of Summer'. Chopin's work is charming and delightful, and includes a surprising variety of moods and piano textures within some eight minutes of music.
The two other well-known Chopin works included are Ottilie Sutro's arrangement of the E flat major Nocturne and Frederick Corder's of the Minute Waltz. The nocturne is taken at not too slow a tempo, which maintains a classical, serenade-like quality, even with its melodic enrichments à deux . Even the small-note cadenza near the end preserves the delicacy of the original. By contrast, the Minute Waltz is not taken too quickly, so that one can really hear Chopin's vertiginous figuration clearly.
Next come the Chopin-based works by other composers. Brahms's Etude nach Fr Chopin is a solo piece (transcribed by Goldstone for two pianos) that adds thirds or sixths to the right hand's triplet quavers (eighth notes) in Chopin's fleet F minor Étude , Op. 25 No. 2. This evokes Leopold Godowsky's extraordinary telescoping of Chopin's two Études in G flat major, with Butterfly , Op. 25 No. 9 in the right hand and the Black Key , Op. 10 No. 5 in the left. The Russian pianist and composer Eduard Sch?tt's Valse-Paraphrase d'apr ? s Chopin expands upon the elegiac C sharp minor Valse , Op. 64 No. 2, especially the curling arabesques of its recurrent counter-theme.
The programme ends with goldstone's Revolutionary Raindrop Rag, which refers not only to the respective Chopin étude and prelude of its title but also contains ‘allusions to five more pluvial pieces and one other revolutionary one'. In his booklet note Goldstone advises: ‘To those who cannot abide the idea of “serious” music being requisitioned for (one hopes) comedic effect, I say please press the stop button now.' I found his piece very witty and entertaining because it goes far enough away from the originals to avoid the ‘hallucinatory' effect of some of the other arrangements in this programme.
More than a few raindrops of new releases have already begun to sprinkle in preparation for the bicentenary of Chopin's birth in 2010. Among them, this disc (which includes six world premi ? re recordings) rediscovers a very special individual piece of the jigsaw. Listeners who already know Chopin's major works will find it fascinating to add this to their collections, especially as Goldstone's long, detailed but always readable booklet note provides immaculate documentation about sources, alternative readings, the basis for certain musical decisions in the recording, and biographical notes about the less familiar arrangers. Chopin lovers: please do not hesitate to acquire it.
MUSIC AND VISION:
These Goldstones are on to something. Now that no one can afford to hire an orchestra, let alone pay the admission ticket to hear it, and presumably the Albert Hall and Festival Hall will be following the example of Woolworths in selling off its fittings at bargain prices, it may well be time to take the photos off the piano, unless it has gone to the pawn shop, and make a start on some laborious Gradus ad Parnassum towards practice of the slower movements in the Classical repertoire. After all, that is precisely how I began my acquaintance with the Beethoven symphonies.
Chopin 's Second Piano Concerto would probably sound glorious on a couple of mouth organs, so there is nothing but delight in this version, thus expertly performed by Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow, a remarkably gifted husband-and-wife team. The start of the finale is enough to raise everyone's spirits from the fathomless depths of any depression.
And those still possessing a score of the work can note with interest the occasional diversion from what is usually played in the solo part. In short, careful research has combined with admirable musicianship to produce this performance.
The Rondo in C, written when Chopin was eighteen, began as a work for solo piano; but it was Chopin himself who recast it for two pianos, a medium he seems never to have used again. It is therefore the only work on this CD that has required no other musician for public presentation.
It might be thought that Brahms 's keyboard style, received initially with such incomprehension, was at an opposite extreme from Chopin's. Yet one of the most interesting rarities on this CD is Brahms's elaboration of the F minor Etude, Op 25 No 2. He was nineteen at the time he made the arrangement, thickening the texture doubtless to test the limits of his own technique. Hence Goldstone's prudent decision to revise the piece for two pianos.
The most dreary of all musical jokes is probably Mozart 's, and Goldstone advises any who object to making fun from the musical Classics to halt the CD before its final track. But I for one have never ceased to relish Fauré and Messager in their concoction of quadrilles from Wagner 's Ring . So Goldstone's take on the 'Revolutionary' study and 'Raindrop' prelude entertained me for what it is, and still has me guessing about the additional 'pluvial' and 'revolutionary' pieces he claims to have included in his jeu d'esprit .
The internationally renowned Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow formed their piano duo in 1984 and have given many two-piano and piano-duet recitals as well as double concertos, taking in major festivals in Europe and the USA. Their concert repertoire mixes well-known masterpieces and rarities, often including first hearings of unjustly neglected works, and their recordings include many world premières. On this new CD the British husband and wife duo play compositions by Chopin arranged for two pianos or piano duet, including the Second Piano Concerto in a version for two pianos by Chopin himself and his pupil Carl Mikuli – a world première recording. In all there are six such premières on this CD. As well as the Second Piano Concerto the pieces included are Chopins Rondo in C major, Op. 73 for two pianos; Variations on a Theme of Rossini, transcribed for piano duet; Valse-Paraphrase (daprès Chopin composed by Eduard Schütt) Op. 58 No 1, for two pianos; Valse in D flat major, Op. 64, No. 1 transcribed for two pianos (arr by Frederick Corder); Nocturne in E flat major, Op. 9, No. 2 transcribed for two pianos (arr Ottilie Sutro); Etude nach Fr. Chopin (Brahms) transcribed for two pianos; Variations on a National Air of Moore for piano duet (compl. Goldstone); Revolutionary Raindrop Rag (Goldstone) for two pianos. A fascinating exploration of rarely heard music played with dazzling virtuosity and verve.
Husband-and-wife duo Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow have traversed a vast range of two-piano repertoire in over 20 years of playing together. This all-Chopin release features, in addition to a two-piano version of the F minor Piano Concerto (no.2), contains a number of arrangements by other hands. In fact there is only one work of pure Chopin. This is the early op.73 Rondo, written in 1828 initially for solo piano, but followed by a two-piano version a year later. It's an attractive piece in the bravura style of Hummel and Weber, and despite its expressive unadventurousness, Goldstone and Clemmow make a strong case for it.
The next closest to pure Chopin is Goldstone's arrangement of the Variations on ‘Non più mesta' from Rossini's La cenerentola , in which Goldstone has resisted the temptation to over-thicken the original solo flute part, preserving the piece as the delectable confection that it is. Goldstone sparkles in the upper register here, though this is the only place where the recording quality is questionable, exposing a top end that is a touch plastic in sound. There's also the Variations on a Theme of Moore and Brahm's Study after the F minor Etude op.25 no.2 (arranged for two pianos), both of them in Goldstone's own arrangements, and three further arrangements by other hands. Of the last, the Valse paraphrase by Eduard Schutt of the Waltz op.58 no. 1 is the most boldly re-imaginative. Goldstone and Clemmow meet it with flair, abandon and technical sure-footing.
Perhaps suprisingly, this liberal sprinkling of miniatures and arrangements actually outweighs a rather disappointing F minor Concerto. Not that these pianists have any shortcomings to speak of; but removing the timbral distinction between piano and orchestra leaves the work fundamentally denatured.
The players let their hair down, however, with Goldstone's Revolutionary Raindrop Rag – which, enfolding its eponymous étude and prelude in a piano rag, does pretty well what it says on the tin, and in a highly refreshing way. It also features a number of blink-and-you'll-miss-them rain-related references, including Debussy's ‘Jardins sous la pluie' from Estampes and even Raindrops keep falling on my head.
Good Chopin recordings are so readily available nowadays that the dedication behind each of them is too easily forgotten. Whether it is a short selection of the 24 Études or one of the full-scale works, pianists, conductors and orchestra members alike invest great energy to make each performance a special tribute to the composer's creative genius.
Fond personal relationship and musical compatibility should never be taken for granted. In their latest recording with Divine Art , husband and wife team Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow have taken up the formidable task of presenting Chopin pieces rescored for two pianos. After a quarter century and with three dozen acclaimed CDs behind them, the British pair is today counted amongst the world's premier piano duos. This collection covers the rare version of the Piano Concerto No.2 for two pianos and the world première of various Chopin-Goldstone compositions.
Elegance is instantly recognizable in the duo's reading of the Concerto with one part contributed by Chopin and the other by one of the composer's notable students, Carl Mikuli (1819-1897). This arrangement balances poetry with thrills and colour. The reduction never sounds cheap on the piano. What makes this work a favorite in today's performing world is its lyricism and probing inwardness. This arrangement has found the ideal interpreters in Goldstone and Clemmow.
The remainder of the CD concentrates on shorter musical gems. Listen to Mr Goldstone's delicious reworking and blending of the Chopin Revolutionary Étude [Op.10 No.12] and the Raindrop Prelude [Op.28 No.15] into what he calls the Revolutionary Raindrop Rag . You will find yourself hard to resist the toe-tapping beat - pure fun. Goldstone's creative talents do justice to the language of Chopin yet add a teaspoon of contemporary music idioms.
Chopin's love for the voice came out in his songs and in his love for the Rossini operas. The Chopin Songs are notably the best in the Polish repertoire. The Variations on a Theme of Rossini - the only known work from the composer written for the flute and the piano – is an early piece from 1824. It is based on the aria ‘Non più mesta accanto al fuoco' from the finale of Rossini's opera Cenerentola. The Variations shared the same time-frame as the wonderfully ambivalent Rondo in C Minor , his Op. 1. Chopin accorded the flute some lovely tunes but underplayed its possibilities. With Goldstone's piano duet version fuller justice is done to the flute's grand and florid themes.
This programme can at times be a little sugary. Take as examples the Chopin-Corder Valse in D Major Op.64 No.1 or the Brahms-Goldstone Études after Fr. Chopin [on extending the Étude Op.25 No.2]. However, the emphasis is on tunes and on displaying the duo's pianistic skills: legato, rippling passage-work and ringing chords. Essentially we are treated to the whole Romantic stock-in-trade except for the darker emotions. The duo focuses on the soulful and the lyrical.
Chopin was one of those rare pianist-composers who rose above style and period. Without a little Mozartean elegance, the Romantic ardour would be buried. Too much excitement does this music no good either. Goldstone and Clemmow know exactly where to take you with this music.
Patrick P.L. Lam
Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow are a well-known British piano duo formed in 1984. One of their specialities is to unearth little-known works that merit popularity; practically all their CDs include world premiere recordings. The present disc is dedicated to the two-piano music of Fryderyk Chopin. The composer himself did not leave much for the medium, and so the pianists have added Chopin-based works by other composers including Anthony Goldstone himself. The centerpiece is the two-piano transcription of the Second Piano Concerto . The remaining tracks are either paraphrases based by others on Chopin's famous works, or his juvenile compositions, written in Poland before or around the time he created the two concertos.
Chopin's First Piano Concerto has a more direct appeal and is the more popular of the two, but it's the Second which is the charmer. Where the First shouts, the Second sings; where the First is dramatic, the Second is poetic. The role of the orchestra is a pure supporting one, and practically all the beauties are delivered by the piano. Thus a two-piano version of it loses little – less than it would in the case of the First. In this recording there are no role shifts: one instrument retains the solo piano part of the Concerto, while the second does the orchestra's job. The performers based their version on Chopin's autograph before it was edited, and by doing so they discovered a few minor deviations from the commonly known version. This creates an additional point of interest.
One of the drawbacks of replacing an orchestral accompaniment with a piano one is that instead of the flowing string background it's now all chords, chords, chords: the piano version exposes the beat. This happens in the first movement of the Concerto, but not too much and not too pronounced. Also, the tutti do not have the overwhelming effect of the orchestral version; they might have been made fuller. Apart from these two points, the performance has excellent energy; the piano part is played with tempestuous drive and full Romantic voice. All the fountains sparkle and the grand cascades fall. The music has weight and depth though the piano sound is dry and a bit percussive. The tempo is on the fast side, so the beginning sounds like a march, which may raise a few eyebrows. The powerful aspect of this music is presented well – the lyrical less so. The appeal of this movement lies much in the alternation and combination of these facets, so there is room for improvement.
The slow movement starts as a flowing song of the soloist, only rarely commented upon by the oohs and aahs of the orchestral part. The pianists express well the music's yellow glimmer, though I wish there was more sfumato : this reading resembles a photograph made with too sharp a contrast setting. The middle episode brings unease and tension, and the performance is intense with a feeling of agitated yearning. The finale is one of Chopin's valses brillantes . The performance is posh and polished – in one word, Polish. It sounds natural and effortless, very dance-like, yet with a certain aristocratic haughtiness.
The C-major Rondo is inspired; its theme and episodes are memorable and brilliant in the most Chopinesque manner. The refrain is tender and lyrical, while the inserted episodes have more bravura. This provides enough contrast for a very enjoyable ten minutes worth of listening.
The Rossini Variations for flute and piano were composed when Chopin was 14, and were arranged for two pianos by Goldstone. This is a small, well-written exercise in classical variations, with a standard structure and a standard sequence of character changes. While not too daring, the music is pretty and enjoyable, and sounds as if it had been penned by Hummel or Weber.
Valse-Paraphrase was assembled with love and skill and shows Eduard Schütt as a master of the paraphrase. It is a masked ball of styles, where every new page presents a new surprise, from echoes of Tchaikovsky's First Concerto to a cousin of Monti's Czardas . The three main themes of Chopin's waltz are sufficiently diverse to provide material for rich and expressive variations. The performance is sensitive, light and airy, with half-toning and good phrasing. This is a very “tasty” piece.
Next comes Frederick Corder's arrangement of the “Minute” Waltz for two pianos, faithful yet far from plain. It has exciting moments, and is performed with grace and élan. The tempo and the dynamics are alive, and the entire piece breathes naturally.
The E-flat Nocturne , arranged by Ottilie Sutro, is a disappointment. The sweet, fragrant Nocturne has turned into a stomping, hurdy-gurdy-like oom-pah-pah, and loses all its nocturnal quality. Such change of character may be deliberate, but this music ends up sounding plain and square, like an exercise for beginners.
Chopin's F minor Étude passed first through the hands of Brahms, who rebuilt it his way, and then through Goldstone's, who arranged it for two pianos. Somewhere on the road it lost the free flight feeling with which it was born although undeniably it has taken on more of the character of a waltz.
Variations on a National Air by Moore were written for four hands, and one page of each part was lost. For this recording, a completion was made by Goldstone. This is an inventive and well-wrought set of variations based on a Venetian song. The nationality of the theme cannot be mistaken. The variations are diverse and interesting, ranging from a tender barcarolle to a vigorous march, and are clearly more advanced than those in the Rossini set. The performance is playful and shows good humour.
The programme ends with a musical joke. It is a potpourri written by Goldstone and dubbed “ Revolutionary Raindrop Rag ”, though it contains more than just the “Revolutionary” Étude and the “Raindrop” Prelude; not all of it is by Chopin. Consider it as a humorous encore to a concert. The pieces of the mosaic are connected more in a contrasting way than a natural way, and are joined under the umbrella of ragtime; not something one usually associates with the name of Chopin. It promises more than it delivers. Although I don't say that everyone should grab this piece and start performing it, it works fine as an encore. If you don't like it, or are not in the mood, you can always press “Stop” right just before it starts.
The recording is very clear. The rendition of the concerto is definitely very stimulating. As for the rest, the bravura pieces fare best, while the more lyrical ones are somewhat “bravurized”. The liner-note is by Goldstone and is excellent, answering practically every question one may wish to ask. Overall, this is an interesting disc for those who like to explore the unknown, and to see the known from new points of view.
LIVERPOOL DAILY POST:
Liverpool-born pianist Anthony Goldstone and his wife, Caroline Clemmow, have produced an ingenious collection of Chopin piano duos. His main excuse is a version of the second Piano Concerto from the composer's own hand with the aid of a certain Mikuli, and a Rondo for two pianos. Then there are arrangements for two pianos of well-known Chopin by various hands including Goldstone himself, and finally a tasty joke encore, the Revolutionary Raindrop Rag for two pianos by Goldstone himself. This is fine entertainment to be found on the Divine Art label.
Those classical cats can be as fervent as jazz cats when it comes to labeling something as ‘never recorded' or unreleased, such is the case here. Some duets that Chopin prepared for a prized student have never been out in this manner and are presented in fine form by the label's first class piano duo. A solidly straight ahead set that has everyone shining in this worthy performance and discovery.
THE SUNDAY TIMES:
Chopin's familiar Piano Concerto in F minor, the second of his two, is here refreshed by a performance in which the orchestra is replaced by a second piano, in a previously unrecorded version using the composer's reduction of orchestral tuttis in the solo part of the autograph score (only this part is in Chopin's hand), with a transcription of orchestral accompaniments made by Chopin's pupil Carl Mikuli. Working from the MS has led the duettists to some interesting, if rarefied, editorial cruxes. There is no scholarly dryness about their playing, though, and they add Chopin's Rondo in C for two pianos (his only essay in the medium), as well as various transcriptions.
If you have ever wondered what a Chopin Piano Concerto would sound like played on two pianos, you are a more curious person than I am. Nonetheless, Chopin himself did some of the arrangement of the piano Concerto No. 2 heard here. I can imagine it was a way of getting his larger pieces heard. Evidently the autograph of the piece has Chopin's own second part written in his own hand, though with significant gaps, as whenever the solo pianist was playing. So there is some justification for this recording. It is interesting that there are several significant changes in the score justified by the autograph, That said, I find that much of the effect of the most beautiful writing, as in the beginning of the second movement, is attenuated by the lack of the usual contrast between the piano and the strings; and the duo's habit of rolling many of the chords in a melodramatic way doesn't help. Several of the other works were rearranged by composers whom I otherwise do not know. Then there is the Brahms study, a brief work that was rearranged by Goldstone, who also wrote the punning rag piece based on Chopin themes with which the disc concludes. The playing throughout is exuberant rather than introspective. I am not sure that I am entirely comfortable with a Chopin that seems to shade off towards Gilbert and Sullivan at times, but this is certainly a unique disc.