A very interesting
disc. Many will say, ‘Do we need another
disc of these famous sonatas?’ There
are many good recordings available and,
incidentally, some thoroughly inadequate
ones. ... some of which are played by
I was a little troubled
by the recorded sound at times in the
first movement of the Moonlight and
there is some unusual rubato. I did
not quite follow the logic of some of
the tempi changes. Goldstone's approach
is not classical but romantic. He succeeds
in the middle movement of the Moonlight
often wrongly called a minuet. This
performance is not feeble as often is
the case. He presents it as a Ländler
and introduces some humour which devotees
of the minuet would not have appreciated.
The finale is the only successful music
in this sonata and the only movement
in sonata form with the second subject
in G sharp minor. It is a real concertante
movement something of a witches sabbath.
The cadenza passages are stirring but
again I felt that the piece should have
been more like a whirlwind than high
winds. Beethoven makes the mistake of
lessening the tempo at times and thus
hindering the continuity as he does,
for example, in the finale of the masterly
Symphony no. 4. This movement is played
with passion by Goldstone and sometimes
with anger, reminding us that the piano
is a percussion instrument. He makes
the contrast between the dreamy slow
movement and the tremendous finale very
pronounced. There is a lot of heart
in this playing and terrifying explosions.
It may not suit everyone but it is fascinating.
Beethoven kept falling
in love with girls and women of noble
birth. The Countess Giulietta Guicciardi
is the dedicatee of this sonata composed
in 1801. She was about sixteen at the
time and Beethoven was thirty.
Ignaz Moscheles is
an underrated composer in his own right.
Here he takes one of the four overtures
to Fidelio, the others being Leonora
numbers 1, 2 and 3, and makes it into
a transcription for solo piano. Moscheles
was 24 years younger than Beethoven
and survived him by 43 years. This is
a labour of love and such noble transcriptions
are of great value, not the least being
the study of the work by playing it
oneself. It appears that Beethoven suggested
this arrangement to Moscheles and was
delighted with the result. Moscheles
settled in London and was responsible
for the first British performance of
the Missa Solemnis in 1832 - a decent
recorded performance of which we really
need at the moment.
The Pathetique sonata
is a better work than the Moonlight
structurally and the slow introduction
is an amazing piece full of all emotions
from anger and power to tenderness.
The brisk main allegro is well caught
in Goldstone's performance with an excellent
choice of tempi and a brave choice too.
The cross hand passages are usually
awkward but not here, and fitting in
those nuisances of mordents is well
captured. The drama is not excessive
as is the failure of some pianists.
The word ‘pathetic’, of course, comes
from the word ‘pathos’ and Goldstone
realises this very well. He reveals
Beethoven's heart, and it was a good
one, with all its turmoil and unrequited
love. It is not said often enough that
Beethoven wrote some very lovely and
romantic music. Goldstone's playing
enables you to feel both Beethoven's
suffering and pain and his joy, something
he was always seeking and which inspired
the finale of the Choral Symphony. The
other characteristic of Goldstone's
playing is the delightful tripping style
depicting the innocent devilment of
the composer. He structures the movement
The slow movement has
been savaged by comedians like Ken Dodd
and pop groups and that angers me. I
would like to see these great works
untouched. Goldstone plays this movement
in a matter of fact style which I admire.
Too many people play it as sticky toffee
- what in stage shows is called 'milking
it'. Some may prefer a more cantabile
tone but as absolute music it works
well. His left hand arpeggios are secure
and sinister. The colour in this performance
is admirable. The movement is not a
pretty and lush piece but dark, perhaps
stark and that is how it should be played.
But it seldom is; it is here, though.
The rondo finale is
not as easy as some make out. Again
Goldstone has a good choice of tempo
and he brings out some of Beethoven's
fascinating harmonies which can only
be appreciated fully by musicians themselves.
I love the way Goldstone eases into
the main theme when it returns. Again
Beethoven has a few slower passages
which hinder continuity.
The variations on God
save the King are not trivial but
very clever. Beethoven was a master
at most things including variations.
The problem is that the tune is trite
and only the prejudiced would deny that
pompous over-dignified tunes are somewhat
lacking. Stiff and stuffy music, Boult
called it. However, Beethoven liked
the tune and when he turns it into a
march-like theme it works. In one of
the gentle variations the harmonies
are both remarkable and choice.
The Appassionata is
an intrigue. I believe Beethoven still
had Giulietta Guiccardi in mind, or
some other female above his station;
poor man, he was unlucky in love. Clearly
he adored many young women and unrequited
love is the most bitter pill to swallow.
This is very difficult
sonata to play not only technically
but structurally. See how Beethoven
starts it with an arousal of his feeling,
the bass heart-beats and sheer excitement
before that tune being first tender
then angry. The felicitous high music
and rumbling bass heart-beats lead into
that luscious theme. And, my, how Goldstone
brings out the passion. The excitement
mounts into a frenzy of love with passionate
pyrotechnics. This pianist has really
caught it. Beethoven is in turmoil again
with all sorts of thoughts pervading
his mind. I repeat he was a man with
a heart and it was a good one. How would
his life have changed if he had married?
And if the marriage had been happy?
The heartbeats pound
away. One wishes one could go back to
1806 and solve Beethoven's private life
but not until after this masterpiece
was complete. Very impressive both from
Beethoven and Goldstone!
When one encounters
such a great movement one wonders if
the rest of the work can match it. The
slow movement has a rather introspective
but simple theme in two parts and a
set of variations which eventually ascends
from the depths to the higher range
of the piano. There is glitter and that
dark hue of the slow movement of the
Pathetique. Here, again, Goldstone triumphs
with his profound understanding of the
music; no mean feat.
In fact, it is probably
true to say that only those of us who
play these masterworks really can evaluate
performances of them. Take another example:
Goldstone’s chords are so even and you
hear all the notes. I can think of one
or two so-called great pianists where
this does not happens.
A fate theme seems
to hurl us into the finale which eventually
sounds like a torrential rain-storm.
It is fearsomely difficult to play on
many counts, but Goldstone is man enough
for it. Again Beethoven's good heart
is shown. The theme has the character
of persistence, of not giving up and
an optimism which Beethoven is seldom
acknowledged as having. The pianist
here brings a variety of colour to the
movement . The final presto section
is music in overdrive.
The final track is
the opening movement of the C minor
sonata but with the 'conventional' repeat.
I do not want to breach copyright and
so I will leave you to read Goldstone's
notes which accompany the disc.