REVIEWS:  divine art   dda 25067 A Night at the Opera

This disc is a pure delight from start to finish. With its evocative cover and dazzling range of virtuoso pieces, it should be one of the piano highlights of the year. The indefatigable Anthony Goldstone also writes the extensive and detailed programme notes which are an important introduction for the prospective listener.

Franz Liszt is an obvious part of any self respective piano transcription disc and here we have his famous Concert Paraphrase from "Rigoletto" and his equally famous rendition of Bellini's "Norma". It goes without saying that Goldstone is up to the immensely difficult task, even to my mind surpassing the great Leslie Howard is his complete piano music survey of the composer on Hyperion.

The other extensive work, lasting almost 17 minutes is Chopin's mammoth transcription from Mozart's "Don Giovanni". The theme, "La ci darem la mano" traverses various emotional gamuts and is brought to a suitably barnstorming end by Goldstone. The titbits are also extremely enjoyable, including Gluck's "Dance of the Blessed Spirits", Rimsky-Korsakoff's "Flight of the Bumble Bee" and the wonderful arrangement by Liszt from Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde", a tear jerker if there ever was any.

Busoni, Grunfeld, Mendelssohn and Grainger complete this hugely enjoyable disc which is jam packed at just 30 seconds less than 80 minutes long. This is one for a warm evening by the fire with the coffee cups coming and with the glorious virtuosity of Anthony Goldstone to round off that perfect experience. This is truly an essential purchase for lovers of good operatic and piano music.
Gerald Fenech

The title suggests the Marx Brothers (or Queen!). Actually, this CD is a collection of ‘paraphrases, transcriptions and variations for piano solo', all based on operatic themes. This is a sensible idea, and I am surprised that more pianists have not recorded similar collections. What is particularly good about the present release is that Anthony Goldstone, in assembling this programme, has completely thwarted monotony not only by mixing genres and composers but also by mixing sizes and moods. For example, Sgambati's intimate, touching arrangement of Gluck's ‘Dance of the Blesses Spirits' is followed by Chopin's 17-minute and very demonstrative variations on ‘Là ci darem la mano' from Mozart's Don Giovanni. Despite Robert Schumann's praise, I don't think the latter is great music, although it is clever, and it gains in stature by being framed by the Sgambati/Gluck on one side and by Rachmaninov's arrangement of ‘Flight of the bumble-bee' on the other.

Even though one of the works was recorded in 2005, and two as far back as 1995, all ten works fit together as if this had been the original intention. There's nothing about the engineering that hints at a 13-year gap; the sound is clear, warm and consistent, without too much echo, although the piano was recorded in a church.

Before receiving this disc, I had not heard Goldstone's playing, but it appears that his discography is heavy on Schubert. He is a pianist who does not like to let the listener know how hard he is working - and he must work very hard indeed to play this series of finger-busters. His playing is effortless. At the same time, it is never glib, and never merely flashy for the sake of flashiness. Turning to Earl Wild's CD of transcriptions (recorded live in Carnegie Hall), we hear a pianist who is more of a showman, but not necessarily a more understanding or even a more technically accomplished musician. {Wild's} playing makes me break into a sweat, Goldstone's makes me relax. Both approaches to this repertory are valid. In the two Liszt works, Barenboim's pearly tone is hard to resist, but the other side of that coin is that Goldstone's readings sound less contrived. (One could argue, though, that contrivance is an essential element of these works!)

Goldstone wrote the booklet notes and they are every bit as enjoyable as his pianism, and full of unusual information to boot. For example, he explains Grainger's use of the term ‘ramble' vis-à-vis Grainger's take on iDer Rosenkavalier by turning to the OED , where the term is defined, related to cats and rabbits and such, ‘to be excited by sexual desire and wander about'. ‘Not inappropriate for this sensual piece', Goldstone writes, adding ‘I expect that Grainger was aware of the etymology'. That, my friends, is how booklet notes should be written, and this is how this repertory should be played. Bravo, Anthony Goldstone!
Raymond S. Tuttle

Were there a Gramophone award for industriousness, Anthony Goldstone would win a nomination at least. Scarcely a month seems to go by without a new disc from this indefatigable English pianist (with or without his duo-partner/wife Caroline Clemmow). With an already impressive list of world premieres, completions and rarities to his credit, it is puzzling why he does not enjoy a higher public profile.

For instance, tucked away among the 13 hyphenated composers is a fairly uncommon solo outing for Chopin's Variations on “Là ci darem la mano”, the early (Op. 2) work which inspired a cocky young part-time scribbler by the name of Robert Schumann to proclaim “Hats off, gentlemen! A genius!”. Goldstone plays Mikuli's arrangement with his own embellishments (I'd love, one day, to hear the version by the American Liszt pupil Julia Rivé-King, 1857-1937). The penultimate item is Mendelssohn's rarely heard Fantasy on “The Last Rose of Summer”, composed 20 years before the song became famous from its operatic use in Flotow's Martha.

Most of the remaining pieces are more widely known and recorded, but Goldstone's accounts generally stand up well to the competition – a buoyant Rigoletto paraphrase, for example, and a keenly detailed and dramatic Carmen Chamber Fantasy. His Norma Fantasy does not quite match the delirious heights reached by Marc-André Hamelin, nor does his Gluck-Sgambati Mélodie equal the ethereal playing of Earl Wild or Rachmaninov, but these are minor cavils that should deter no-one from investing in this generously filled disc accompanied by the pianist's own excellent booklet.
Jeremy Nicholas

There has been a steady flow of Divine Arts CDs from Anthony Goldstone often partnered by Caroline Clemmow. This is the latest and here he appears solo.

In splendidly assertive sound there is no mistaking the grand manner. It's a mantle that Goldstone assumes with an aristocratic flourish. Those two words apply resoundingly to the superbly paced Rigoletto paraphrase. Sgambati and Goldstone seem to conspire in the gentle fragility of the Mélodie from Gluck Blessed Spirits. The bejewelled Chopin-Mozart variations may well be familiar from the version with orchestra but here it shines in poised finery. Rachmaninov and Rimsky provide an excuse for Goldstone to set the Bumble Bee skimming irately along at breakneck speed. Grainger's Strauss Ramble is a delightfully complex skein of sentimentality, grandiloquence and those so-familiar silver-dripping notes. Back to Liszt for yet more panache in the Grand Fantasie - Norma Reminiscences. Busoni is a much more serious proposition in the Carmen Chamber Fantasy in which the work's pianola-like mechanistics combine irresistibly with the vaguest hint of a smile. Along the way Goldstone delivers some superbly judged shadowy-misty textures - a miracle pulled off with consummate and evidently natural skill. Liszt's Liebestod transcription seems thicker and less successful to me until the grand-statement of the love theme at 4.10. More successful is Mendelssohn's Fantasy on The Last Rose of Summer. This is suitably sentimental with its Celtic skirl and light melancholy. A fond farewell is bid with Alfred Grünfeld's Soirée de Vienne in which play is made with waltz motifs from Fledermaus and other concert dances by the Royal family of the waltz.

The package is completed with a sure-footed essay from Goldstone. Thankfully this is not short on specifics. The effect is completed with de luxe production values for the whole package.
Rob Barnett

(awaiting publication)
Anthony Goldstone has been at the forefront of imaginative recital and recording programming for many years. In recent years he has recorded his own scholarly yet practical solutions to the tantalising unfinished piano works of Schubert and Mozart. His recent disc Tzigane (Devine Art 25033) presented a feast of gypsy inspired compositions both familiar and unfamiliar. His new CD takes a similar path; exploring the rich crop of opera inspired works yet including unusual works as well as more familiar ones. The disc opens with Liszt's justifiably famous Paraphrase on Verdi's Rigoletto. This was very popular with pianists of the so-called Golden Age; Godowsky, Cortot, de Pachmann and others all recorded this masterpiece of vocal realisation in piano form. Goldstone has produced one of the finest modern recordings; he really sings the melody with his fingers and the ornaments dance around the melodies. The Gluck piece is simply and effectively played; cool and reserved. The Chopin work is rarely heard, but it should be played more often on the evidence here. It is a large scale work that bursts through the supposed lightweight nature of the genre. In this Chopin presages the great works of Liszt. Goldstone is on fire in this work; he never loses momentum throughout the long structure. In complete contrast to the sonorous Chopin, the Bumble Bee of Rimsky-Korsakov delights with its crazy flight; the pianist showing needle-point delicacy.

Percy Grainger's Ramble on the Last Love-duet in Der Rosenkavalier is another sumptuous rarity. Goldstone enjoys every purple chord sequence as Grainger out-Strausses Strauss! The is an excellent live recording of this work played by Ronald Stevenson on APR and the two performances make for an interesting comparison; it's definitely worth having both recordings. Another huge Liszt work follows, his Reminiscences of Bellini's Norma. Again Goldstone marshals enormous sonorities from the instrument; an overwhelming experience as Bellini's themes are couched in ever more elaborate textures. Busoni's aptly named Chamber Fantasy in a complete contrast; there is virtuosity required of course, but the mood is less grandiose, more mysterious. The final pages sink into despair, eschewing the grand finale of many such works. It is typical of Busoni in that he searches for the inner drama. This is one of the best recent performances of this work; listeners may recall Paul Jacobs fine reading from the LP era. Murray McLachlan has also recorded the Chamber Fantasy as part of a very interesting disc for Dunelm Records and of course the Michael von Zadora classic from 1930 is essential listening. Goldstone next plays the Liszt version of Wagner's Isoldes Liebestod. Liszt, rather like Busoni, explores the deep drama and conflict of the story and the tension of Wagner's still extraordinary harmonies. Mendelssohn's Fantasy on ‘The Last Rose of Summer' is quite a simple work and Goldstone plays it with affection. The real bon-bon of the collection is Grünfeld's Soirée de Vienne; sheer delight from beginning to end! The Viennese lilt is irrepressible; as ‘echt' as Willi Boskowsky! Lovely music to end a brilliant recording. Anthony Goldstone has produced a gem of a disc with glorious melodies lovingly adorned by both composers and pianist. The sound is just right for my taste and the notes (by Goldstone) are rich in both information and enthusiasm. So take your seats at the opera house – the curtain is going up!
David Hackbridge Johnson

This recital is devoted to arrangements, transcriptions, and paraphrases from operas. Several of them, rarely heard, are especially welcome in Goldstone's most musical hands. None are played as mere virtuoso vehicles, though he certainly does not lack the technical ability to wow an audience.

Liszt is given his due with the Rigoletto Paraphrase, Grande Fantasia on Norma , and Isolde's Liebestod . All of them are played with appropriate panache, with the lengthy Bellini especially dramatic.

Chopin's La Ci Darem La Mano Variations begins with a introduction followed by a really jaunty statement of the theme. Goldstone makes little attempt to impart anything beyond a mock seriousness to the proceedings. As the five variations progress they are played with a wink of the eye and a hint of caustic humor befitting the circumstances between the Don and Zerlina.

A duet of another kind is offered in Percy Grainger's Ramble On the Last Love-Duet in Der Rosenkavalier . This is gentle, but gorgeous music, arranged to take full advantage of the luscious sounds by adding to them. Goldstone milks it for all its worth. Deliciously irreverent!

Busoni's Carmen Fantasy joins the many compositions inspired by Bizet's immortal music, but draws on many sections not usually heard. Busoni goes far afield from mere transcription, and the result is fascinating.

Also heard is Mendelssohn's Fantasy on the Last Rose of Summer , Rachmaninoff's arrangement of ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee', and Grunfeld's Soiree de Vienne , largely based on Die Fledermaus .

All of this makes for a most likable and satisfying recital. Goldstone knows how to get to the heart of everything he plays, writes his own entertaining notes, and enjoys excellent sound from the engineers.

Discs of this type often descend into utterly joyless exhibitions of note-hitting or well-intended but ultimately enervating semantic reappropriation. First and foremost, Tony Goldstone rejoices in these cascading miniatures as gloriously inventive and musically satisfying pieces in their own right. I would challenge anyone to listen to his Liszt Rigoletto Paraphrase or Busoni Carmen Fantasy merely as a technique-fest, so beguiling are his truly musical responses.

Mendelssohn's ‘Last Rose of Summer' Fantasy and Chopin's ‘Là ci darem' Variations are often dismissed as being of little interest, but played like this one would think them to be bona fide masterpieces. Even Rimsky's Bumblebee is totally transformed when its fearsome velocity is despatched with such a relaxed-sounding, velvet-lined touch. An outstanding collection performed with exemplary grace and style, further illuminated by first-rate annotations from Goldstone himself.
Julian Haylock

Pianist Goldstone has recorded some splendid CDs for the Divine Art label in recent years, and his latest offering features some stunning paraphrases, transcriptions and variations on memorable melodies form the world of opera. “Carmen”, “Rigoletto”, “Don Giovanni” and “Die Fledermaus” all provide subject matter for these absorbing flights of fancy, and Goldstone is in typically impeccable form throughout.
Kevin Bryan

Locally-born pianist Anthony Goldstone delights us with A Night at the Opera, paraphrases by Liszt, Chopin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Grainger and others, of Rigoletto, Norma, Carmen, Tristan and Fledermaus and homing in more closely on The Last Rose of Summer, La Ci Darem and The Flight of the Bumble Bee.

This is entertaining stuff, which pleases today just as it did the 19 th century audiences for whom it was written. Virtuoso playing is provided by Goldstone on this Divine Art release.
Peter Spaull

No Marx Brothers in sight but there is a dandy solo piano set in which Goldstone serves up a tasty tour de force where he doesn't just take a spin through a handful of opera classics, he puts his own spin to them as well.  From the Green Hornet to Rigoletto to stuff you might not know, this is a diversion for opera fans that want something new that doesn't take them too far afield.

  And: joint review of 25067, 25073, 25076:
An initial impulse is to decry the foul economy and say that in a perfect world  this would have been a mighty box set.  On second thought, who needs that cleverness?  The only unifying factor on these three sets is that Goldstone proves he can play anything with such absolute mastery, subtly and style.  Taking his piano wizardry to familiar themes in the various genres he presents, each one is just such a joy that you could put them on your Ipod shuffle and not miss a beat as they play randomly.  A great talent at the top of his stride, there is simply nothing on any of these three sets that isn't enjoyable, probably by anyone.  This is great music to just sit back and let it wash over you.
Chris Spector

When the piano developed to the point at which composers like Franz Liszt set out to make it "sing," keyboard transcriptions of opera arias and ensembles became popular. Thirteen examples of this genre are included on a Divine Art CD with pianist Anthony Goldstone doing them justice.

There are arrangements by Liszt of tunes from "Rigoletto," by Chopin from "Don Giovanni," by Grainger from "Rosenkavalier," by Busoni from "Carmen," and so on. Goldstone has appeared on several Divine Arts recordings with Caroline Clemmow playing piano transcriptions of symphonies and tone poems. Here he is a soloist and his talent is evident.

A 16-page booklet gives information about each piece, as well as about the artist. I would heartily recommend this CD to lovers of piano music in general and of opera melodies in particular. Snatch this one up right quick!
Frank Behrens