TCHAIKOVSKY: Rare Transcriptions and Paraphrases, Vol. 2 = PABST: Concert Paraphrase on The Sleeping Beauty; SILOTI: The Sleeping Beauty, Act III; GRAINGER: Paraphrase on Waltz of the Flowers; KASHKIN: Swan Lake: Pas de trios – Anthony Goldstone, p. – Divine Art

by | Jul 13, 2013 | Classical CD Reviews

TCHAIKOVSKY: Rare Transcriptions and Paraphrases, Vol. 2 = PABST: Concert Paraphrase on The Sleeping Beauty; SILOTI: The Sleeping Beauty, Act III; GRAINGER: Paraphrase on Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker; KASHKIN: Swan Lake: Pas de trios, Act II – Anthony Goldstone, piano – Divine Art dda25106, 75:55 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

British piano virtuoso Anthony Goldstone seems to have embarked upon a one-man crusade to revive the legitimacy of the transcription as its own art form, having already given us his renditions of Tchaikovsky’s operas and orchestral concert pieces, and now turns to the world of Tchaikovsky’s three exquisite ballet scores. Tchaikovsky himself sought acolytes whom he trust to extend his legacy through piano reductions – “symphonic” though they may be – and among such individuals stand out Paul Pabst (1854-1897), Alexandre Siloti (1863-1945), and Nikolai Kashkin (1839-1920). The great iconoclast Percy Grainger (1882-1961) came to Tchaikovsky via Louis Pabst, but Grainger’s own flamboyant, even excessive, personality colors his individualistic treatment of the Waltz of the Flowers (1904). The Pabst paraphrase may have first come to the attention of piano connoisseurs via Shura Cherkassky.

Goldstone certainly urges its bravura runs and cascades as it preserves motifs belonging to the evil fairy Carabosse and her malignant abuse of Catalabutte, master of ceremonies at Princess Aurora’s christening. The famous Act I Waltz then proceeds in ornamental fashion, a combination of flying fingers and unforgettable melody. The Lilac Fairy appears after a cadenza, and the waltz proper concludes this impressive showpiece.

That Ukrainian virtuoso transcribed the entire Act III of Sleeping Beauty itself testifies to a labor love, as well as to a keyboard wizard of the first order. Tchaikovsky once claimed that among his adherents, only Taneyev and Siloti were worthy of his confidence. The Act III of Sleeping Beauty has had its own “identity” in the form of Aurora’s Wedding, which conductor Leopold Stokowski used to tout as a vehicle for his especial color gifts. Reality and fantasy mix freely in Tchaikovsky’s treatment of the Perrault fairy tale, since characters from childhood fancy arrive to celebrate in dance an otherwise standard royal wedding, considering that the bride has had a preparatory rest of twenty years!

Twenty-three numbers comprise Act III, and the demands on the solo keyboard can be daunting, beginning with the brilliant Polonaise, which must ring with polyphonic and syncopated colors, all under a light pair of hands. Wonderful non-legato from Goldstone over a pulsating bass line marks the Pas de quatre, followed four splendid variations and a coda.  Needless to say, Tchaikovsky melodic gifts could barely exert themselves more brilliantly throughout, considering that each step and harmonic shift had to be coordinated to a balletic gesture. The sparkling variants, belonging to the Sapphire and Diamond Fairy, respectively, provide a shimmer and bravura we could mistake for Gottschalk. Sometimes the active treble part must substitute for the flighty effects of flute and piccolo. The mewing potential of the piano for the Puss in Boots duet with the White Cat suggests Mussorgsky as much as it does Tchaikovsky. Among the most exotic of the characteristic dances is the Pas berrichon, a percussive affair in an antique French style of a (toccata-like) bourree. 

The last eight numbers cast first a duet, then solos, only to re-unite Aurora and her beloved Desire in a series of plaintive gestures, including the extended, scalar Adagio, which for all of Goldstone’s conscientious block-chord ministrations, requires an orchestra for its full effect.  Aurora herself realizes a stately Gavotte (Pas de deux: Var. II); a confident Russian Cossack Dance follows, and one more antique dance, a Sarabande (often omitted), leads to the mazurka-rhythm Finale and aristocratic Apotheosis, a grand and heraldic paean to the power of love.

If we have not already been convinced of Goldstone’s prowess, we next encounter the thunderous throes of Percy Grainger’s monumental account of Waltz of the Flowers, which contains more cascading avalanches than flora.  We can virtually hear the horns in the orchestration, and the swirls and throbbing runs and trills resonate with a will, effectively rendered by Stephen Sutton’s remastering of the 2011 inscription. Finally, a set of six dances from Tchaikovsky universally successful (though not at its premier) Swan Lake, here transcribed by Dmitrievich Kashkin, who served on the same faculty as Tchaikovsky at the Moscow Conservatory.  The Pas de trois from Act I recalls Prince Siegfried’s birthday party, prior to the appearance of the flock of fateful swans. The longest selection, the Andante sostenuto, enjoys an exotic and antique sonority in minor, almost as though Goldstone were performing Rameau. The Allegro semplice enjoys a rustic, ingenuous melody that bursts forth Presto. Big block chords form the alternately lumbering a agile Moderato, suited to a power dancer. After a skittish Allegro, the Coda brings to a swirling conclusion a decisive tribute to the world’s foremost master of the ballet medium.

—Gary Lemco

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