This is an intriguing collection before listening to it, and one that remains interesting, in part, after having done so. Divine Art’s presentation suggests a “popular” compilation. [we do not think so! – Divine Art] The cover reproduces a vividly coloured painting of a gypsy girl, her long flowing dress reacting voluminously to her dancing, and some of the pieces included in Anthony Goldstone’s recital are highlighted only by title. Carmen Fantasy suggests several composers (the one chosen is by Busoni), while Andalusian Fantasy is actually Falla’s Fantasia Baetica, indicating that the CD’s contents might be suitable as aural ‘wallpaper’ [*see below] . Not the case, of course, and such thoughts are banished by the booklet itself, which includes a nine-page English-only essay by the pianist.
Kodály’s Dances of Galánta is in a well-made transcription by Goldstone, dispatched with bravura. Kodály’s orchestral original being ‘reduced’ to solo piano shouldn’t be seen as detrimental to the work. After all, Liszt and Bartók were satisfied to enshrine Hungary’s musical folklore thus, and in the Liszt Rhapsody selected here Goldstone brings a certain élan, although less force and more smouldering would have been welcome. The Haydn ( the finale of his best-known keyboard concerto) is heavy-handed and lacks sparkle and wit, and although Goldstone is up to the technical demands of the Busoni, it is played too obviously at times.
Of Brahms’s two Hungarian Dances, the one that Goldstone has transcribed, no.11, has expression rich enough to be given an immediate encore, and the composer’s own version of no. 2 is flamboyantly played, without neglecting the all-important contrasts of reflection and combustion: soul, vibrancy and fire – the qualities that maybe we first think of in connection with gypsy music (and, indeed, beyond that rather colloquial description). Yet, as performed here, Dohnányi’s slow Rhapsody seems too much of a musical hothouse, rather wearing, even when the dynamic slopes downwards. This draws some criticism, here and elsewhere, that Goldstone could have invested more variety of touch to his playing, and more sublety. The charming trifle by Augusta Holmès (1847-1903) seems to need a lighter, more insouciant rendition that Goldstone gives it.
Alongside the Kodály, there are two other notable performances. Falla’s Fantasia bética, written for Rubinstein, is music that I find intractable. Having heard Fantasia bética too many times in competition rounds, where it is usually made to sound loud and percussive, it is a revelation to listen to Goldstone’s rhythmically emphatic, even clinical approach, against which the slower sections exude hypnotic fascination. Although one misses the orchestra in Enescu’s own transcription of his familiar Romanian Rhapsody no. 1, Goldstone’s buoyancy, energy and volatility make the piano version attractively viable.
The recording unstintingly relays Goldstone’s most forceful playing, which can sometimes seem hectoring, and which can detract from the whole. This is an issue to dip into, then, but at least the substantial works are especially winning.