Anthony Goldstone is unofficially something like the U.K. professor emeritus of piano. After a successful concert career which included a letter of thanks and praise from Benjamin Britten himself, Goldstone has settled in to spend the past few years arranging, transcribing, completing, discovering and otherwise generating new works for the piano repertoire, then recording them for the Divine Art label. One can hear his arrangements in ‘The Piano at the Ballet’, an homage to gypsy music, and world premieres of numerous works of the Russian romantics.
Here he presents arrangements of Tchaikovsky, both familiar works ( Marche slave , Serenade for Strings ) and perhaps somewhat less so: the finale of the third orchestral suite, a ‘Potpourri’ on themes from The Voyevoda . It’s a pleasant program but probably only of interest to the serious Tchaikovsky fan. I am one of those sad people who don’t much like the Marche slave , and “naked” in a piano transcription it doesn’t grow any warmer, but the virtuosity required is considerable and Goldstone has all of it. The transcriber, someone named Hanke, is a bit of a mystery, and even Goldstone’s impressive detective work couldn’t crack the case. Tchaikovsky himself arranged the Potpourri on themes from his opera The Voyevoda , and published it under a pseudonym. Goldstone has cleared the composer of responsibility for the piano Marche . The pen name was a good idea in this case; the potpourri is structurally just that, jumping from tune to tune with little order, though it all sounds very pretty.
The two transcriptions by Anthony Goldstone himself with Max Lippold are the most successful. The first is of the variations from Orchestral Suite No 3 , and although one can miss certain orchestral colors, like the cor anglais solo, the piano version is surprisingly effective, and definitely a great pleasure to hear. Goldstone’s fingers can really fly at moments like the incursion of the ‘Dies irae’ tune. The Serenade for Strings is the CD’s highlight for me: it’s one of my favorite works, and the transcription by Goldstone and Lippold is both exceptionally good and blessed with its own witty little touches. I approached with trepidation, because a piano’s sustaining power has nothing on the polish of orchestral strings, but the transcribers know this and have accounted for it, and the playing here transcends all such qualms. It’s indeed an extremely good performance, the waltz a delight and the trickiest bits to make work on a piano – the introduction and élégie – are handled beautifully.
Curious Tchaikovsky fans should therefore check this out. Aficionados and connoisseurs will enjoy a great deal, especially thanks to Goldstone’s sympathetic pianism and his ability to deploy considerable virtuosity when necessary. He would be even better-flattered by more state-of-the-art sound; this is a bit glassy, and so closely miked that the church acoustic sounds more like a sitting room. Still, it’s not something that will impair your enjoyment. Volume 2 will contain excerpts from the three ballets; as a previous recording has hinted, these pieces have potential on the piano. I very much look forward to hearing Goldstone take them on.