|REVIEWS: divine art dda 25026 Schubert "Unauthorised" piano duos|
It also says much for their artistry and commitment that they can even make Hugo Ulrich’s setting of the Adagio from the C minor String Quintet convincing, a near sacrilegious undertaking as Goldstone modestly tells in his informative booklet note. Lighter offerings include his own realisation of the B flat Polonaise and Poldini’s elaboration of the E flat Impromptu with its cunning entwining of its parts and mischievous quote from the with its cunning entwining of its parts and mischievous quote from the Wanderer Fantasie for good measure.
Josef Hüttenbrenner’s arrangement of the Rosamunde Overture is another unlikely success and if Prokofiev’s setting of Schubert Waltzes is sometimes dour and heavy-footed that is hardly the fault of the pianists. For Goldstone and Clemmow, Schubert is a composer “especially dear” to their hearts, and this shines out of all their performances. An invaluable disc, then for all musical explorers and for those happy to sample unusual tributes to “the most poetic of composers” (Lizst).
The main attraction of that fascinating collection of "Unauthorised Piano Duos" of Schubert was a version of the Trout Quintet without strings at all, can you believe it? This came to my notice in the excellent notes by Misha Donat for Hyperion's new CD of the Trout coupled with the String Trios. Hyperion's new studio recording with Paul Lewis is immaculate, but bland to my ears and unlikely to prove competitive with favourites of this much loved and oft-recorded work (Gramofile has reviews of some seventy recordings on CD & DVD). But quite another thing is the Goldstone/Clemmow account of the Trout in publisher Joseph Czerny's 1829 version, which he promoted in tandem with his posthumous publication of the familiar quintet original. Hyperion's version is worth acquiring for Misha Donat's extensive researches and detective work, but Goldstone & Clemmow anticipated it in their 2003/4 recording, which really makes you sit up and listen, and is my strongly recommended preference between the two.
Many great works have been arranged over the centuries for piano, four-hand piano, or two pianos: Beethoven and Haydn Symphonies, Brahms’s 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 composer’s view of another’s oeuvre. At other times, a Schubert work serves as a platform for showcasing someone else’s talent at the keyboard.
The "Trout" 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 Schubert’s 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 Schubert’s 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.
Generally, though, one is not aware that Czerný’s work is an arrangement, as many passages in Schubert’s 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 — 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 — 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, I’m just not sure that this recording demonstrates that. In order to pull off an arrangement like this, one needs to know the score — 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 pianist’s hand in that the line becomes bumpy and static, with any resonance falling far from the reverberation in any capable cellist’s hands. This lack of floating or soaring line throughout all the voices deeply inhibits Schubert’s 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 Ulrich’s 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 Schubert’s 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 that’s 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 one’s compositional wings.
At least one of the works on this disk is an example of hubris on the part of the arranger — ‘Don’t Fix What Ain’t Broke’, 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 can’t 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 Schubert’s death. Here, there is no apparent notational interpretation, or liberties taken, and it as faithful to an original idea as possible. That’s our taste today. Had this been finished in the 19 th 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 Schubert’s Impromptu in E flat major, D. 899, no. 2. It’s a vehicle for pyrotechnical keyboard displays, and sounds a bit dated. That’s 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.
JOURNAL OF THE SCHUBERT INSTITUTE (UK):
The Austrian National Library also supplied a copy of Josef Hüttenbrenner’s arrangement for piano duet of the overture to Rosamunde, D.664 (originally the overture to Die Zauberharfe, and with its musical origins in the Overture in the Italian Style, D.590, for which Schubert himself supplied a four-hand arrangement, D.592). Josef, whose admiration for Schubert is displayed in this fine arrangement, was the brother of Anselm and Heinrich, composer and poet respectively.
Goldstone, who has also made his own completions of the “Reliquie” Sonata, D.840, and the Allegretto in C minor, D.900, for Divine Art “Piano Masterworks” series, has provided a realisation of Schubert’s Polonaise in B flat major, D.618a (1818), for this disc. Schubert left only the melody line up to the middle of bar 20 in the Trio section. Goldstone describes the problems posed as being ‘akin to those of a cryptic crossword’. No doubt Brian Newbould can identify with those sentiments.
The Russian composer and virtuoso pianist Sergei Prokofiev made arrangements of some Schubert waltzes for both piano solo (recorded recently by the young Finnish pianist Antti Siirala) and piano duet [sic – should be two pianos]. The first of the 12 Valses Nobles, D.969, provides a kind of leitmotiv thread through the whole. The admirable playing of both Goldstone and Clemmow, characterised by textural clarity, beautiful voicing and ensemble (and well projected in an excellently balanced digital stereo recording), is particularly well illustrated in the performances of Ede Poldini’s arrangement for two pianos of Schubert’s Impromptu in E flat, D.899/2 (1827), and Hugo Ulrich’s arrangement for piano duet of the Adagio from the String Quintet in C, D.956 (1828). The former has all the makings of a rousing ‘encore piece’ with its addition of the triplets from the main theme as a contrapuntal element in the middle B minor section and its humorous borrowing of a theme from the ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy at the beginning of the recapitulation. The latter – in spite of Goldstone’s apologies to those Schubertians who might find a keyboard arrangement of arguably the greatest movement in the composer’s chamber music output ‘sacrilegious’ – provides a most satisfying conclusion to a finely conceived disc.
When Anthony Goldstone and his wife Caroline Clemmow unearthed a four-hand version of Schubert’s Trout Quintet [written] by Joseph Czerny in 1829, soon after Schubert’s death, and found it playable, they researched other Schubert pieces and put together this fascinating 10 track disc, beautifully recorded and thoroughly recommended. Being deceased Schubert could hardly authorise any of them! Having already devoted seven CDs to Schubert’s keyboard music for four hands they would have relished these new pieces, especially when the Trout arrangement proved so well redesigned for the medium. The performance is a joy to hear and I am certain that Schubert would have approved.
I really enjoyed the 2-piano arrangement of Schubert’s E-flat major Impromptu by Ede Poldini and Prokofiev’s delightful concoction of Waltzes, apparently made about 1920, which more that hints at the Death and the Maiden string quartet. Josef Hüttenbrenner’s duet arrangement of the Rosamunde overture failed to move me but Anthony Goldstone has made a good job of turning the D 618a sketches into an enjoyable Polonaise. They end with Hugo Ulrich’s 19th-century duet version of the wonderful Adagio from the great C major String Quintet. Certainly not to be ignored in this context and with good moments, though I hated the last minute, with all too piquant broken chords where pizzicato strings should make our hearts throb. Nevertheless, another joint triumph for the Divine Art’s unique piano duo.
INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW:
The Hungarian composer Ede Poldini does more in transcribing the E flat Impromptu (D.899 no.2). He gets the extra player to take on the speeding right-hand triplets in octaves, which is certainly Schubertian almost to the point of mannerism, as in the Trout Quintet; he also adds some entertaining quirks of his own, after a fashion that would have won an approving smile from his compatriot and predecessor Liszt. It is wittily played here. Goldstone’s own contribution is an idiomatic realization of the Polonaise (D618a), which survives only as a treble line. This is something different: a conjectural reconstruction, and a convincing one.
The version of the Trout is a different matter again. This was made by the publisher Joseph Czerny, who issued it at the same time as Schubert’s original. It is more imaginatively done than Josef Hüttenbrenner’s arrangement of the Rosamunde Overture, in that instead of fitting the music as conveniently as possible on to the keyboard for four hands, it makes some changes which, without being too interventionist, suggest a composer’s imagination at work. Nevertheless, both pieces are perhaps really for piano duo players to enjoy rather than for public consumption. As for Hugo Ulrich’s transcription of the slow movement of the C major String Quintet: Goldstone disarms criticism by observing that “we have placed it at the end of the CD…giving the sensitive listener the opportunity to stop the playback at the end of the waltzes”.
NINETEENTH CENTURY MUSIC REVIEW:
British piano duo Goldstone and Clemmow present what they dub “Franz Schubert: The Unauthorised Piano Duos” as their third release with the label Divine Art. Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow have already comprehensively tackled Schubert’s four-hand compositions – performing all of them as a series of seven concerts on more than one occasion. Now they have dipped into the vast literature of Schubert transcriptions, serving up a rather eclectic selection of offerings. Presumably having run out of original Schubert compositions, yet still yearning for more, the duo has joined the long tradition of making more Schubert for themselves to play by turning to arrangements and new works based on Schubert’s sketches. The performances are crisp, the ensemble is sharp and the sound is clear and lively. The repertoire is a mixed bag of choices – works by Schubert’s contemporaries Joseph Czerny and Josef Hüttenbrenner alongside of arrangements for two pianos by Sergei Prokofiev and Hungarian Ede Poldini (1869-1957). Goldstone himself completed Schubert’s sketch for a Polonaise and Trio D. 618a; although this track was recorded in 1998, the rest of the pieces were recorded in 2003 at the Church of St. John the Baptist in Alkborough, North Lincolnshire. Rounding out the selections is the Adagio from Schubert’s String Quintet in C, D. 956, in an arrangement by Hugo Ulrich (1827-1872).
Thomas Christensen, in his excellent article about Goldstone and Clemmow’s genre, “Four-Hand Piano Transcription and Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Music Reception”, calls Ulrich “one of the best arrangers of the nineteenth century – and certainly the most prolific… no other arranger found better or more sensible ways to balance the respective desiderata of faithfulness to the score and playability on the keyboard.”. Nevertheless, the liner notes take a decidedly defensive tone regarding the entire project of recording transcriptions in general, but particularly the risk the duo has taken of offending their audience by recording this gem. Goldstone, in the liner notes, states: “Those who love this work – and there are many – may well be outraged that a keyboard arrangement should even exist, and a recording of it may be considered sacrilegious by some. Therefore the extracted movement has been placed at the end of the disc so purists can stop the CD, after over one hour’s music, giving the sensitive listener the opportunity to stop the playback at the end of the [Prokofiev] Waltzes.
How attitudes have changed since 1861 when Carl von Bruyck reviewed the first four-hand arrangement of Schubert’s String Quintet (arranged by August Röse zu Schnepfenthal) in the Viennese Deutsche Musik-Zeitung. Bruyck lamented that the work was not known outside of Vienna, that it had only recently appeared in print, that unfortunately it had not been published in score but only as parts. To him, the publication of the arrangement meant new life for a work that had been as good as dead for thirty years. In this nineteenth-century world, such arrangements of symphonies, concertos and chamber works not only served to introduce music lovers to great works, but also were a means to revisit the work after hearing it performed live.
In the business of nineteenth-century publishing, the arrangement of a work such as the quintet would certainly be more lucrative than the original composition. Popular movements, such as the Adagio from the String Quintet, were often sold individually. Joseph Czerny, the music publisher in Vienna who is no relation to the far more prolific arranger Carl, published the Quintet in A major for Piano and Strings, D. 667 as Schubert’s op. 114. Also a composer who published two sets of variations on themes by Schubert, Czerny himself arranged the quintet for piano duet, as he also did for the two string quartets he published in 1830. He used his arrangement of the “Trout” to advertise his other Schubert publications and also sold the variation movement individually. But apparently purists do not have the same issues with arrangements of the “Trout “ Quintet, nor with the other works on the disc, that they do with the String Quintet.
Like the Czerny and Ulrich, Hüttenbrenner’s Rosamunde overture is intended as a faithful transcription of Schubert’s original and, like Ulrich and Czerny, Hüttenbrenner is willing to change the register of certain passages and make other compromises that may deviate from the model, but make the work more effective on piano. Although not nearly the composer that his brother Anselm was, Josef functioned as Schubert’s secretary in the early 1820s and also arranged Schubert’s First Symphony (D.82) for the same forces in 1819. Since Josef’s arrangement was first published only after 1840, Goldstone believes it was first composed after Schubert’s death. However, it is just as likely that Hüttenbrenner prepared the work in conjunction with its first use as the overture to Die Zauberharfe, premiered in 1820, or its adaptation as the overture to Rosamunde, Helmina von Chézy’s theatrical disaster from 1823, for which Schubert composed incidental music.
Alongside these works that are more or less faithful re-creations of Schubert works, the three pieces that round out the elections involve more creativity on the part of the arrangers, all of which build on their models. Amidst sketches that he used in other four-hand works, Schubert composed the melody of the Polonaise, D. 618a, breaking off in the twentieth bar of the trio. Goldstone, who has also completed Schubert’s “Reliquie” Sonata D. 840 and the Allegretto in C minor, D. 900, crafts a satisfying realization from the fragment, supplying stylistically appropriate harmonies and Schubertian flourishes that testify to his close study of Schubert’s compositional style.
The final two pieces are for two pianos – a more virtuosic medium in many ways that the piano duet – and, while each is based on works of Schubert. Each arranger takes considerable liberties, adding his own voice to the works. Poldini’s Study on Schubert’s Impromptu in E flat major, D. 899 no. 2, is no longer than the original, but is a wonderful treat because of the additions and countermelodies he is able to incorporate into this familiar work. As the contrasting middle section repeats, Poldini integrates flashes of the main theme of the first section as a swirling accompaniment. Upon the return of the main theme, perhaps because the main theme has just figured so prominently, Poldini manages to borrow the fleeting waltz-like second theme from the third movement of the “Wanderer” Fantasy, D. 760, weaving it seamlessly into the Impromptu.
Reminiscent of one of Liszt’s Soirées du Vienne, Sergei Prokofiev’s arrangement of waltzes by Schubert for two pianos probably dates from 1920 and also exists in a version for piano solo. Prokofiev uses the first of the Valses Nobles, D. 969, as a kind of ritornello and between the increasingly complex statements visits a number of Schubert’s other dances, including a selection from the 12 Deutsche, D. 790. Like Poldini, this is more of a virtuoso showpiece. But whereas the Impromptu stays light and humorous, at times the Prokofiev gets rather heavy, especially when he has the pianists play two different dances simultaneously. And the harmonies in the final repetition of the ritornello are all Prokofiev.
Overall, Goldstone and Clemmow provide a nice balance of unusual arrangements on this latest recording. Although originally composed for a variety of different uses, taken as a whole the pieces make a satisfying collection. Perhaps one could question the necessity of recording four-hand transcriptions when so many perfectly good recordings of the original compositions are so readily available. One could even lament that we live in an age when recordings have replaced evenings at the piano, playing the latest in orchestral or chamber work with a partner. Probably any purists who object to the arrangement of the String Quintet should just stay away from this recordings altogether; the rest of us can enjoy it as a marvellous guilty pleasure.
BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE:
There are no such problems in Hungarian composer Ede Poldini’s entertaining, over-the-top study on the E flat Impromptu, D. 899/2, which at one point mischievously slips in a theme from the Wanderer Fantasy. And Prokofiev’s piquant, glittering take on a sequence of waltzes and German Dances is well worth hearing. Performances are always enjoyable if longer on breezy energy than colouristic subtlety (though the bright, resonant church acoustic hardly flatters the piano sound.) Goldstone himself offers a skilful, sensitively harmonised realisation of a polonaise fragment (D.618a) that Schubert left as a melodic outline. But it’s hard to work up any enthusiasm for the crude transcription (by Schubert’s friend Josef Hüttenbrenner) of the Rosamunde Overture, or the arrangements of the Adagio from the C major Quintet; if ever medium and message were indivisible, it is here.