The Jazz Age for Piano Duo
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
An American in Paris (1928) – two-piano version arranged by Gershwin [18:37]
Edward Burlingame HILL (1872-1960)
Jazz Studies for two pianos (1922-24) [8:38]
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
La création du monde (1922-23) – piano-duet version by Milhaud [15:43]
Alexander MOYZES (1906-1984)
Jazz Sonata for two pianos Op.14 (1932) [14:29]
Mátyás SEIBER (1905-1960)
Easy Dances for piano duet (1932) – selection of pieces [7:38]
Hoagy CARMICHAEL (1899-1981)
Stardust for two pianos (1927) arr. Louis Merkur (1895-1982) [4:13]
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Embraceable You for piano duet (1928) arr. Percy Grainger (1882-1961) [1:23]
Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow (piano duo)
rec. 2010, St. John the Baptist Church, Alkborough, North Lincolnshire
DIVINE ART DDA25089 [70:43]
What an excellent idea; and what fine execution. And not only these two qualities, but a third one too – real listening pleasure. All these elements mean that this latest Goldstone-Clemmow release proves just as attractive as the preceding ones. It’s also very much worth noting that we apparently have a raft of first recordings of these particular piano duet performances; the Burlingame Hill, Milhaud, Seiber, and Carmichael.
Gershwin’s own two-piano score of An American in Paris was not published at the time – after his death a different version was published – and only appeared in the 1980s. It included some short sections that he cut from the orchestral score, and this version was recorded at the time by the Labèque sisters. For this recording G and C have used Gershwin’s final thoughts on the matter, which therefore correspond with the published full score, as it were. Sometimes the effect of listening to a piece in this way is rather like trying to recognise an old friend by his skeleton, but so practised are the duo, and so enjoyable is the arrangement, and so jam-packed with colour and incident, that one listens to its teeming narrative with unvarnished pleasure. From Gershwin to Hill is something of a leap. Hill, a fascinating figure and composer – teacher no less – came to jazz, or its like, at the age of 48 with the politesse of a Harvard grandee. The opening movement of the four Jazz Studies is polite Ragtime, whilst there’s a nicely sprung near-relative of The Black Bottom and – the most interesting harmonically – a tight, fast vivace to finish.
La création du monde is heard in the composer’s familiar piano-duet version. One says ‘familiar’ but it appears actually never to have been recorded before. What an oversight! If your marker for this is the composer’s own recording (one of them, anyway) or, say, Bernstein’s then there’s still no reason why you shouldn’t want to hear Milhaud’s own piano-duet reduction, given that it lays bare motivic strands in a way that you might miss in the glistening animal passion of the clothed orchestrated version. It’s a work of which I never tire, and not for nothing did I queue in the rain to get Lenny to autograph his LP of it for me.
A decade after the Milhaud, Alexander Moyzes wrote his Jazz Sonata for two pianos. For most Czechoslovakians – Moyzes was a Slovak – ‘jazz’ still meant hot dance bands, extrapolated ragtime, or something of that kind. It certainly didn’t mean King Oliver. Moyzes studied with Novák and is a crucial figure in modern Slovak music. His suite is delightful, unpretentious and not out to make points. There’s a charmer of a waltz and an endearing foxtrot: great fun. Seiber’s Easy Dances for piano duet, of which we hear a selection, were written when the composer was living in Frankfurt. These dance aperçus almost all last less than a minute. One, the Rumba, sounds like Stan Kenton’s Peanut Vendor in basic miniature, whilst the Slow-Fox makes me wonder how deeply his knowledge of jazz went; it sounds deeper by far than Moyzes or Hill for example. (Seiber co-wrote with Johnny Dankworth the Jazz-Improvisation for orchestra and jazz band and this was recorded in 1962 with the Dankworth’s band and the LPO conducted by Hugo Rignold: British Saga LP XIP700) Had he heard James P. Johnson’s records? To finish we have two little encores; Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust and Gershwin’s Embraceable You arranged successively by Maurice Whitney and Percy Grainger. They make for a fitting envoi.
This is a sparkling and vivacious disc, marvellously played, and not just for jazzers only.
Jonathan Woolf
This is a sparkling and vivacious disc, marvellously played, and not just for jazzers only.