This is a fascinating
disk. You wonít find such a collection
Many great works have
been arranged over the centuries for
piano, four-hand piano, or two pianos:
Beethoven and Haydn Symphonies, Brahmsís
chamber music, Mozart, Bach, Vivaldi,
and the list goes on. Many pieces here
are for four hands and some are for
two pianos. This is the first time for
a release such as this.
The disc is historically
informative and a must for fans of eighteenth-
and nineteenth-century "novelties".
Included are faithful transcriptions
which only occasionally cross the line
into arrangement. Sometimes they show
ingenuity in one composerís view of
anotherís oeuvre. At other times, a
Schubert work serves as a platform for
showcasing someone elseís talent at
Quintet in A major (D. 667) is the centre-piece,
with the Rosamunde Overture running
a close second. In this recording of
the Trout are contained the views of
arranger Joseph Czerný (1785-1831),
the composer Schubert, and of the performers.
This four-hand-arrangement was published
by Czerný alongside the Quintet
just a few months after Schubertís death.
Perhaps a bit of good business sense
led Czerný to capitalize on what
he expected would be a best seller.
As the Quintet wraps itself around Schubertís
beautiful and very popular song it probably
could not have failed in any form. Although
this Quintet transcription is mostly
faithful note-for-note, some voicing
choices were clearly made by Czerný.
Sometimes a bass line is doubled; sometimes
a tenor line is brought to the stratosphere
for clearer hearing. Sometimes there
are weaknesses in the arranging. Take
the second movement, for instance. A
substantial use of the pedal makes it
easier to sustain string passages in
this slow movement, but is not of assistance
in cadential measures, where a piano
simply cannot do the job of a bow pulled
slowly and richly across a stringed
instrument. The opening tempo of the
actual Trout song, the third
movement, should really be treated as
if it were a song. As such one should
consider the words to the original tune,
as Schubert would have when settling
on a tempo for performance of this Quintet
movement. This recording takes the theme
much too fast to enjoy the thought (though
unspoken and unsung) behind the song.
Yes, it should, and does, move ahead
at the variations, and slows down some,
as is traditionally done, for the cello
solo variation. Somewhere between this
cello movement tempo and what Goldstone
and Clemmow chose for their opening
tempo would have been a better idea.
The last movement, although as exciting
as the original, has two spots, actually
the same passage twice, missing a key
element in the treble line, played by
the violin in the original. After listening
a couple of times to these passages,
I realized finally that the omission
was probably due to the over-employment
of every available finger at the task;
simply, not enough fingers to play the
passage the way Czerný arranged
it. It might have been more musically
tasteful had Czerný sacrificed
a few notes in an inner part in order
to preserve the Schubertian aspects
of this passage.
one is not aware that Czernýís
work is an arrangement, as many passages
in Schubertís original Quintet are heavy
on piano anyway and thus change very
little in the arranging. Czerný
probably could have gone a bit further
in his A-major arpeggios upward ó after
all, there are 88 keys to a piano. There
are the issues of bringing out inner
voices, when left intact by Czerný,
in their original register. It is then
up to the performers to bring out a
line that would have been at the foreground
in a good chamber music performance
ó the other players in that case would
have toned down their appearance in
order to let an inner instrument like
the viola or second violin come through.
I know this can be done on the piano,
Iím just not sure that this recording
demonstrates that. In order to pull
off an arrangement like this, one needs
to know the score ó the original score,
and to imagine oneself as a string player.
Nor am I sure that Schubert, had he
lived a longer life, felt the need to
arrange the Quintet for four hands.
The Adagio from String
Quintet in C major (D. 956), the two-cello
quintet, here transcribed for piano
duet by Hugo Ulrich (1827-1872), suffers
from the same dilemma as the slow movement
of the Trout. Here once again is a work
requiring an incredible amount of control
from every member of the string-playing
original, thereby putting any two pianists
at a disadvantage at the onset. Pizzicatos
in the second cello part just do not
translate well to a pianistís hand in
that the line becomes bumpy and static,
with any resonance falling far from
the reverberation in any capable cellistís
hands. This lack of floating or soaring
line throughout all the voices deeply
inhibits Schubertís beautiful writing.
This is no fault of the performers,
especially if they were following to
the note all the articulations (or lack
thereof) in this transcription, which
in turn leads us to question whether
or not Ulrichís faithful transcription
would have fared better had it been
more arranged, rather than less so.
One of the more interesting
works on this disk is some of Schubertís
Waltzes arranged for two pianos, circa
1920, by a still-young Sergei Prokofiev.
They of course sound very Russian, very
full and sometimes very Prokofiev-like.
This is one of the arrangements on the
disk thatís farther from the original
than Schubert might have been able to
tolerate, not that it mocks the original
in any way. This is a successful and
entertaining exercise in stretching
oneís compositional wings.
At least one of the
works on this disk is an example of
hubris on the part of the arranger ó
ĎDonít Fix What Ainít Brokeí, some might
say. Some of the works suffer from their
being arranged at all. Others, like
the indestructible Rosamunde, arranged
by Josef Hüttenbrenner (1796-1882),
would be delightful to hear even for
an orchestra of kazoos. You canít kill
a good piece of music with a bad arrangement,
though even good composers have weak
spots, and great ones a few. This distilling
of music down to four hands, twenty
fingers, works most of the time.
The work arranged by
Anthony Goldstone, Polonaise in B flat
major (from the D. 618a sketches), sounds
more faithful to an original, an unfinished
work at the time of Schubertís death.
Here, there is no apparent notational
interpretation, or liberties taken,
and it as faithful to an original idea
as possible. Thatís our taste today.
Had this been finished in the 19th
century or early twentieth, it would
have been another story. Which is the
case with the Study for two pianos by
Ede Poldini (1869-1957) from Schubertís
Impromptu in E flat major, D. 899, no.
2. Itís a vehicle for pyrotechnical
keyboard displays, and sounds a bit
dated. Thatís what can happen when one
strays too far from Schubert.
The liner notes are
important, fixing time, place and sometimes
reason, and are historically helpful.