International Record Review

I trust that at this stage in recording history we have to make no excuses or allowances for the fact that more often than not the most interesting releases in classical music come from the smaller labels rather than the multinationals. Divine Art is one of those smaller labels and in the few years of its existence it has produced a wide range of interesting and eminently worthwhile records. In terms of the Grieg centenary discography, I have to commend a disc which, on the face of it, might seem somewhat superfluous but which in essence is an important and valuable one.

This is of music for two pianos by Grieg, played by the very gifted two-piano team of Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow, at the head of which repertoire on this CD stands the world premiere recording of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in the version for two pianos. This wholly authentic edition is admirably detailed in Goldstone’s excellent booklet notes. In the manuscript full score of the Concerto, Grieg himself made a piano reduction of those passages wherein the orchestra plays without the soloist, so that the work could be played through complete on one instrument. This naturally meant that the orchestral part would have to be omitted when the soloist was playing. Goldstone explains that the second piano part taking the place of the orchestra in this recording is partly by Grieg and partly by Karóly Thern, an Austro-Hungarian composer, conductor and pianist. It was Thern who arranged for piano the music played by the orchestra when the soloist is playing, thus making possible a performance of the entire work on two pianos, “endowing it with a special immediacy and clarity”, as Goldstone so rightly says.

The result is a surprisingly successful version of the work which is wholly convincing in that it enables us to appreciate the quality of Grieg’s original invention – not so much in monochrome, as one might imagine – by focusing our attention on the orchestral part in a way which, as it is so very well played here, causes us to wonder anew at the quality of the music itself. I have been immensely taken with this performance, not least in that the pianist who essays the solo part (is it Goldstone or his wife? – I do not know, neither are we told) makes a quite outstanding job of it. I am well aware that many may fight shy of hearing this version, so familiar are they with the orchestral score, but I do urge you at least to hear it, and see if you are not convinced that it is more than worthwhile. Quite apart from anything else, the recording quality is splendidly true and excellently balanced.

Also on this very well-filled disc are the Norwegian Dances, op. 35, originally for piano duet (and later orchestrated by Hans Sitt), and the piano duet version of the first Peer Gynt Suite and ‘Homage March’ from Sigurd Jorsalfar. These are all equally admirably played. Another rarity is Mozart’s Sonata in C major, K. 545, with a second piano part added by Grieg in 1877. Many people will recoil from this, but again I urge you to hear it: Mozart’s original piano part is left untouched by Grieg and is played by one pianist; the other pianist plays Grieg’s new second part, which turns the music into something quite remarkably different and not at all uninteresting.

This therefore is a fascinating disc; the musicianship of these two players being particularly and consistently impressive.

—Robert Matthew-Walker