Before the invention of recording, apart from attendance at live concerts, the only way that people could hear the symphonies and other orchestral works was at the piano. Liszt and other composers wrote virtuoso transcriptions for the solo pianist. However, piano duets were very popular as it was much easier to produce all the notes needed to give a fair approximation of the orchestral original. Thus four handed versions of great orchestral works were much in demand.
Taneyev was a pupil of Tchaikovsky and a fine and prolific composer some of whose works are still played today. The transcription is a good one, but to listeners who know the original orchestral version well, the music sounds strangely bare and reminds us of what a master of the orchestra Tchaikovsky was. A transcription must be judged on its own terms and it really is an interesting experience to be able to concentrate on the music rather than on the orchestral sound; the structure becomes much more clear and one ends up by feeling one knows the work better and in a different light.
Rimsky-Korsakov was a contemporary of Tchaikovsky. In 1872 he married Ndezlda Purgold. She was beautiful (as demonstrated by her picture on the front cover of the disc) and a good pianist and composer and was a great influence on Rimsky-Korsakov. She was an expert of the art of transcribing large scale works for four hands and had done so for her husband’s works The transcription is excellent, if anything more expressive that that of the Symphony and it is very interesting and satisfying to listen to.
In 1868 and 1869, Tchaikovsky was commissioned by the publisher Jurgenson to arrange 50 Russian Folk Songs for piano duet. These are very straight-forward arrangements without any development and with endings that were often sudden and abrupt. Many of the 16 played on this disc are very well known, some appearing ion works of Tchaikovsky himself and one appears in Stravinsky’s Petrushka. The disc ends with the famous Volga Boat Song. A fascinating and enjoyable piece of little known Tchaikovsky.
The piano duo Goldstone and Clemmow was formed in 1984 and Anthony and Caroline married in 1989. They are a very successful duo and have issued 23 CDs and have played all over the world. Their playing on this CD is a fine example of their art and the disc can be recommended strongly. The excellent notes are written by Goldstone and Clemmow (with some help from Tchaikovsky!) and the presentation of the disc is attractive.
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