MusicWeb International

Anthony Goldstone has been at the forefront of imaginative recital and recording programming for many years. In recent years he has recorded his own scholarly yet practical solutions to the tantalising unfinished piano works of Schubert and Mozart. His recent disc Tzigane (Devine Art 25033) presented a feast of gypsy inspired compositions both familiar and unfamiliar. His new CD takes a similar path; exploring the rich crop of opera inspired works yet including unusual works as well as more familiar ones. The disc opens with Liszt’s justifiably famous Paraphrase on Verdi’s Rigoletto. This was very popular with pianists of the so-called Golden Age; Godowsky, Cortot, de Pachmann and others all recorded this masterpiece of vocal realisation in piano form. Goldstone has produced one of the finest modern recordings; he really sings the melody with his fingers and the ornaments dance around the melodies. The Gluck piece is simply and effectively played; cool and reserved. The Chopin work is rarely heard, but it should be played more often on the evidence here. It is a large scale work that bursts through the supposed lightweight nature of the genre. In this Chopin presages the great works of Liszt. Goldstone is on fire in this work; he never loses momentum throughout the long structure. In complete contrast to the sonorous Chopin, the Bumble Bee of Rimsky-Korsakov delights with its crazy flight; the pianist showing needle-point delicacy.

Percy Grainger’s Ramble on the Last Love-duet in Der Rosenkavalier is another sumptuous rarity. Goldstone enjoys every purple chord sequence as Grainger out-Strausses Strauss! The is an excellent live recording of this work played by Ronald Stevenson on APR and the two performances make for an interesting comparison; it’s definitely worth having both recordings. Another huge Liszt work follows, his Reminiscences of Bellini’s Norma. Again Goldstone marshals enormous sonorities from the instrument; an overwhelming experience as Bellini’s themes are couched in ever more elaborate textures. Busoni’s aptly named Chamber Fantasy in a complete contrast; there is virtuosity required of course, but the mood is less grandiose, more mysterious. The final pages sink into despair, eschewing the grand finale of many such works. It is typical of Busoni in that he searches for the inner drama. This is one of the best recent performances of this work; listeners may recall Paul Jacobs fine reading from the LP era. Murray McLachlan has also recorded the Chamber Fantasy as part of a very interesting disc for Dunelm Records and of course the Michael von Zadora classic from 1930 is essential listening. Goldstone next plays the Liszt version of Wagner’s Isoldes Liebestod. Liszt, rather like Busoni, explores the deep drama and conflict of the story and the tension of Wagner’s still extraordinary harmonies. Mendelssohn’s Fantasy on ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ is quite a simple work and Goldstone plays it with affection. The real bon-bon of the collection is Grünfeld’s Soirée de Vienne; sheer delight from beginning to end! The Viennese lilt is irrepressible; as ‘echt’ as Willi Boskowsky! Lovely music to end a brilliant recording. Anthony Goldstone has produced a gem of a disc with glorious melodies lovingly adorned by both composers and pianist. The sound is just right for my taste and the notes (by Goldstone) are rich in both information and enthusiasm. So take your seats at the opera house – the curtain is going up!

—David Hackbridge Johnson