I would like to draw attention to two marvellous recordings featuring familiar music in unfamiliar form but in a form in which many people of the relevant time would have heard the works first.
Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow (husband and wife team) recorded for Olympia some years a four hands one piano version of Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade to which I think I called attention.
They have continued their work on exploring the four hands one piano repertoire with two further discs for the UK Divine Art label. I have had the benefit of listening to these two gifted artists many times and I think their latest recordings will make them many friends.
Divine Art 25020 contains an astonishing performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4 in the arrangement entrusted by the composer to Taneyev who, of course, was the composer’s choice for the first performance of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1 when Taneyev was only 19.
To say that the first movement contains some barnstorming pianism is an understatement, I think, but with these two intelligent artists in never descends into “noise”. I can only imagine how much crosshand work there must be in this. The second movement: Andantino in modo di canzona has never sounded more beautiful or more noble so far as I am concerned and of course the Scherzo is “made” for this sort of transcription with the answering voices and *that* piccolo part in the treble. Again wonderful pianism from both players in the Allegro con fuoco and very nearly at “Svetlanov” speed.
There follows a transcription of the Romeo and Juliet Overture:Fantasia in an arrangement by Nadezhda Purgold (Mrs Rimsky-Korsakov), a very fine pianist and transcriber in her own right and whose great beauty adorns the cover. Most of the Rimsky arrangements are by her hand. The very opening of this piece heard in this form reminds one how very “Russian” this music is. The disc concludes with a delightful performance of 16 of “Fifty Russian Folk Songs” including the familiar Volga Boat Song (The Barge Haulers, reminding us that this was originally a “work” song). You can play “spot the tune” and where you know it from with some of the other pieces.
In the days before regular concerts most of these works would have first been heard in the home in the form presented on these recordings but I would think very few would have achieved the easy virtuosity which is on display.
In Anthony’s intelligent notes which grace [the album] he quotes Britten’s view of transcriptions: “It doesn’t affect the original work – it just makes a new one…I support the idea of transcriptions against many who think it inartistic…you can only judge by the value of the transcription.”
My judgment is that these are all great transcriptions and I do not think a single movement of any of this music loses anything – in fact I suspect many people, as I have, will listen to these familiar pieces with new and enhanced respect.
[The CD has] a beautiful natural piano sound recorded in St John the Baptist Church in the North Lincolnshire village of Alkborough where Anthony and Caroline have their home.