“Leave it to DIVINE ART to bring much deserved attention to artists the likes of Anthony Goldstone (1944-2017), the late English pianist who during his life made it both his business and a labor of love to explore the rarely visited and undiscovered outer limits of the pianistic repertory.”

I wrote that some time ago when I heard the divine art release of Goldstone’s Unheard Mozart. I am now listening to The Piano at the Ballet, volume II of The French Collection, which divine art is releasing and dedicating to the memory of their friend “Tony” Goldstone. It provides 80-minutes of sheer fun, while the scholarly though eminently accessible notes by Jeremy Nicolas, and Stephen Sutton’s mastering and design of the CD enhance the listening experience.

The choice of music, as was always the hallmark with Goldstone is vast and informed throughout by a stylish and always tasteful approach to music that is inherently light-hearted, joyful, tongue-in-cheek, but never trivial.

Starting with excerpts from Francis Poulenc’s 1923 ballet Les Biches this listener was transported to the Paris of the 1920’s, where the names of Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Coco Channel, and Sergei Diaghilev, among so many, were familiar to a savvy audience already accustomed to the new sights and sounds of Debussy and Stravinsky, the Impressionists, and the literary forays of Gertrude Stein and her coterie of American expatriate writers.

The music of Henri Sauguet, Henri Françaix, Maurice Thiriet, and Boris Asafiev was not familiar to this listener prior to hearing it on this CD for the first time. Unpretentious, often satirical, unabashedly romantic in its post-Romantic melodic and harmonic languages, the writing of all four of these composers is perfectly suited to the madcap subject matters of their ballets.

Claude Debussy’s early work Printemps is included in this CD. Composed in 1887, the music was submitted to the consideration of the august Académie des Beaux Arts, which pegged on to it the sobriquet of Impressionism, so detested by the composer, who later in need of cash had it played in a vaudeville show in London in the company of jugglers and acrobats, as if to expose the critics’ overreaching pretentiousness.

Debussy’s substantial composition affords Goldstone the opportunity to show his mettle as a solid technician, as do tracks 26 through 28 of the CD, featuring excerpts from Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, which bring the splendid collection of ballet music in the divine art volume two of The French Connection’s  The Piano at the Ballet to a lovely ending.

Rafael de Acha