American Record Guide

Anton Stepanovich Arensky (1861-1906) is remembered today for a bare handful of his compositions and as the teacher of Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, and Gretchaninoff. His short life, addicted to gambling and alcohol, ended at a sanatorium in Finland where he died of tuberculosis. His music shows the influence, if not the genius, of Tchaikovsky; and it is enjoyable, well crafted, melodic, and not without charm. In these two recordings of his piano music the only duplication is the set of 12 Etudes, Op. 74.

The Etudes show a real difference between these two performers. Neiman, the American pianist, is sweepingly lyrical. Everything flows smoothly, with rippling motion—lots of arpeggios.

Goldstone, from England, is more dramatic and modern in sound. His recording was originally on the Olympia label—and favorably reviewed at the time (Nov/Dec 2001). He sometimes finds the angularity and odd inflection in the music. But both recordings are excellent.

[In] Goldstone’s selection, the 12 Preludes Op. 63 are virtuosic and well contrasted. They resemble Chopin only in their fecundity, and each one seems to beget another as they flow forth in a natural manner. The Essays on Forgotten Rhythms are said to take their rhythms from the poetry of ancient Greece and Rome. While the first employs left hand arpeggios, the second is characterized by catchy rhythms. The remaining four convince us that Arensky has a first-rate melodic gift; there is much that is very beautiful, and nothing falls short of elegant.

A Suite of Arabesques, Op. 67, and the three pieces of Op. 42 complete Goldstone’s selection. If not revelatory or particularly innovative, they are interesting and increase one’s admiration for the composer. While all these pieces are short, they rarely reek of the salon, and usually manage to bring smiles to the face of the listener. Goldstone is a wonderful interpreter, and people enamored of the piano will be considerably poorer if they do not invest in this.

While Goldstone offers his own informative notes, Naxos does a reasonably good job in that department as well. Further confusing matters is the outstanding recital on Hyperion from Stephen Coombs. While there is much duplication, his gentle playing exudes charm and forces me to have all three on my shelves.