is the third and final volume of Anthony Goldstone’s traversal
of Schubert’s solo piano music for The Divine Art record company.
Reading other reviews of Goldstone’s series, it strikes me that
many of them have a common refrain; initial hearings are not well
received, but further listening results in a very high opinion
of Goldstone’s interpretations. This type of response usually
means that the artist is conveying one or more unusual aspects
of the music that take some time to enter the listener’s comfort
Goldstone’s performances have been within my comfort zone from
the first listening of Volume 1 through to the recent distribution
of Volume 3. Perhaps what turns some reviewers off at first is
the stark soundstage. This has an extremely wide dynamic range
and is open to every detail and ounce of emphasis offered by Goldstone
whose own dynamic spectrum is much wider than the norm. This soundstage
is just perfect for my listening tastes but might take a while
for some others to adjust to.
for Goldstone, he acquits himself splendidly as would be expected
from his two earlier volumes. He consistently conveys the continuity
of Schubert’s singing lines and the inherent sparkle and playfulness
so crucial to this composer’s music. Even better, there are times
such as in the Four Impromptus where he mines the music for its
power, clarity, drama, and impetuosity. When using this stunning
approach, Goldstone reaches a high point of distinction among
the many pianists who have recorded these works.
are some highlights of my journey through Volume 3:
Impromptus, D. 899 – From the powerful initial chord of the C
minor, it is evident that Goldstone is not going to hold back
his reserves of strength. He doesn’t see the work as a pretty
ornament to entice listeners, but as a declaration of emotional
angst set against some of the loveliest musical passages Schubert
ever created. Goldstone’s assertive approach will either leave
listeners aghast or emotionally spent.
Impromptu in E flat major is one of my favorite Schubert pieces
mainly because of the stunning contrasts between the first and
middle sections. In the first section, the glittering and speedy
right-hand melody distributes power throughout the spectrum. In
the middle section, both hands concentrate a tremendous weight
of energy in the emotional core [cd 1 tr. 3 1.12]. This is muscular
music at its peak, and the Sviatoslav Richter version from his
famous Sofia recital on Philips demonstrates the sheer power,
tension and unpredictability of the music. Goldstone is very much
in the Richter mode with impetuous force always around the corner.
Simply judging from their performances, Richter and Goldstone
are two guys you don’t want to mess with.
Lupu’s performance for Decca of the Impromptu in G flat major
has always impressed me with the beauty and caressing nature of
its first section. Lupu’s approach does not interest Goldstone
who uses the first section to set the table for the turbulent
middle section in E flat minor. Although missing Lupu’s sublime
elements, the tension Goldstone imparts to the first section makes
the desperation in the middle section a natural response more
than in any other version I know. Goldstone’s hammer-like blows
demand one’s attention, but you might want to stay close to the
in A minor, D. 845 - Although I was initially disappointed that
Goldstone isn’t quite as virile in the A minor as in the Impromptus,
his performance is certainly a fine one. He fully captures the
delicate and playful elements inherent in the score, and his rhythmic
flow consistently registers Schubert’s cantabile line as amply
demonstrated in his gently rocking 3rd Movement Trio
[cd 1 tr. 8 3:34]. His version of the A minor compares well with
the exceptional Imogen Cooper on Ottavo, Goldstone being more
assertive and Cooper more delicate and sparkling.
in C major, D. 840 – This work, having the title "Reliquie"
because it was mistakenly considered Schubert’s last composition
when it was published in 1861, has an interesting history. Schubert
never did complete his 3rd and 4th Movements,
breaking off the 3rd after 80 bars and the 4th
after 120 bars. Pianists have resolved the matter by only playing
the first two Movements, playing the score as left by Schubert,
or completing the last two Movements themselves. Actually, there
is one pianist I know who uses the most extreme solution; John
Damgaard discards the C major entirely in his box set of all of
Schubert’s Piano Sonatas released on ClassicO. That is one stingy
solution that is difficult to overlook in a ‘complete’ set of
the Schubert Sonatas.
the above alternatives, I favor the playing of the score as left
by Schubert, and I couldn’t ask for a better guide to the work
than Sviatoslav Richter’s version on Philips that is one of the
great Schubert recordings of the 20th Century. He stretches
the 1st Movement Moderato to over twenty-two minutes
in a transcendent display of the ability to keep interest at heightened
levels and convey the sublime comfort and assurance that is so
prevalent in Schubert’s compositions. As for the remainder of
the C major, Richter keeps letting us know that he is the king
of Schubert’s cantabile lines.
takes the 1st Movement like a speed-demon compared
to Richter whose assurance and comfort are replaced with edginess
and worry. Goldstone executes his approach expertly, but I sorely
miss that feeling of ‘home’ that Richter offers. Goldstone’s completions
of the final two Movements are idiomatic and compare well to those
by Ernst Krenek and Paul Badura-Skoda. Overall, Goldstone gives
us another excellent performance, but Richter remains unchallenged.
in D major, D. 850 – A radiant and upbeat work, Schubert wrote
his D major while on a pleasant holiday vacation to the countryside.
The exuberant 1st Movement Allegro vivace is given
a particularly wonderful reading by Goldstone whose playful and
impetuous personality makes this the version of choice. I especially
love the passage where Goldstone displays great vitality and enthusiasm
without a care in the world through a sparkling traversal into
Schubert’s shimmering lines [cd 2 tr. 7 1:18].
Works – Of the three lesser-known works on the program, Schubert’s
Diabelli Variation is the most interesting. For those not familiar
with its history, the story begins with the composer and publisher
Anton Diabelli (1781-1858) who wrote a slight and rather insipid
waltz theme. Subsequently, Diabelli reached out to a large group
of other composers, asking each to compose one variation on his
theme. Schubert’s contribution is on Goldstone’s program and it
is a very enjoyable one-minute piece.
suppose that to mention Diabelli’s Variation without bringing
up Ludwig van Beethoven’s contributions would represent heresy.
Beethoven could have supplied a variation to Diabelli, but instead
he publicly ridiculed the music and Diabelli’s request. However,
Beethoven was a crafty fellow, and he secretly wrote one of the
greatest variation works of Western Civilization famously known
as the Diabelli Variations. Never much of a ‘joiner’, Beethoven
preferred to establish his own path and leave others in his wake.
I wouldn’t suggest that Schubert’s little contribution to Diabelli
approaches the quality of Beethoven’s majestic work, but it would
have fit nicely in Beethoven’s schematic.
conclusion, outstanding sound, and performances never less than
excellent, round out Anthony Goldstone’s series of Schubert’s
piano masterworks. Perhaps not quite as compelling as Richter
or Brendel, Goldstone holds his own with the exceptional recordings
by Kempff, Uchida and Cooper. An additional plus is that each
of the 2CD sets can be had for just the price of one premium disc.
I heartily recommend that Schubert piano enthusiasts find a spot
in their music libraries for Mr. Goldstone.
also review by Colin