Surely there is no more entertaining or exploratory a piano duo in the world today than Goldstone and Clemmow. Their names are beginning to take on the ring of Vronsky & Babin, or Smith and Sellick, or Bartlett and Robinson or other of their elite predecessors. Except, I think, that G & C have undertaken a recording programme that is throwing up many more first performances, arrangements, and novelties, than ever before. And this disc is no exception.
We have a ‘Spanish Delights’ programme. Not all the composers are Spanish, but all have plugged into the national grid of the continent and produced music of vivid immediacy. Chabrier leads with España . The composer played the piece to his wife-to-be and it was probably conceived for piano. It remains deliciously colourful, and is rendered here with sufficient rhythmic brio to ensure that its vitality is richly conveyed. I mentioned earlier Bartlett and Robinson and it’s their arrangement of Granados’s Quejas ó la maja y el ruisenor – from Goyescas – that we hear in its first digital recording. No complaints at all about the rich melancholia conveyed in either arrangement or performance. Lecuona’s Malagueña is heard in the arrangement for two pianos by Grace Helen Nash, and full marks to the duo for their rich chording and rhythmic vitality.
It’s something of a surprise to hear Rodrigo’s Adagio from the Concierto de Aranjuez. I’ve certainly never heard this version, which is not surprising as it is apparently the first ever recording of the composer’s own arrangement. As ever, whilst one’s ear misses the known version it’s rewarding to hear a ‘bare bones’ performance that clarifies the music. Chaminade and Saint-Saëns bring their own French high spirits to the party: the former has a salon-carnival approach in La Sévillane whilst Saint-Saëns unveils his dance with crisp panache, and the two performers do so likewise. The reduction of Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain is by one A. Bertram, and it’s a highly competent piece of work heard, once again, in a claimed first ever recording. I like the way the flamenco guitar is evoked in this piano duet performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s old pot boiler, the Capriccio espagnol. If ever you get tired of the orchestral flourish, you might turn your ear to this less gilded version with advantage. Unlike the rest of the programme this is a much older recording, taped back in 1990. And as an envoi you can listen to Tárrega’s delicious charmer, Gran Vals . It’s a first recording too, it seems. One word of warning: if you play it and notice a little theme that makes you narrow your eyes and squint and say to yourself; ‘But I know that tune, what the Hell is it?’ then let me tell you. It’s the Nokia ring tone. Who knew? How did Nokia get hold of it? Thanks to Anthony Goldstone for pointing that out in his highly readable notes. It saved me some minutes of agony.
As I hope you can tell, I’ve enjoyed this disc immensely. Piano duets or reductions or originals that are better known in orchestrations aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but when the playing and recording are as good as this, I don’t think you could possibly complain.
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