Ralph Vaughan Williams: Music for Two Pianos

Goldstone & Clemmow Piano Duo

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Ralph Vaughan Williams: Music for Two Pianos Review

by James Manheim

Ralph Vaughan Williams did write a concerto for two pianos and orchestra and a small Introduction and Fugue for two pianos, but neither of these works is included here. Instead, the music performed here by the English piano duo of Goldstone and Clemmow consists of arrangements by others. The arrangement of The Running Set (1936) was made for rehearsal purposes, and nothing here is essential stuff, even for Vaughan Williams buffs. But the arrangements work surprisingly well. Each one is of a different sort, and all the arrangements were done by pianists who were at least fairly close to Vaughan Williams himself, who contributed revisions to the two-piano version of the Symphony No. 5. That work was completed in 1943, and the version here may remind you of the symphonic piano transcriptions made for practical purposes in the Romantic era, although it's not known exactly how it came to be written; done by Vaughan Williams' student Michael Mullinar, it ingeniously reduces the effects of the symphonic score to the two-piano medium. The highlight is the final Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, originally for double string orchestra and string quartet, and thus presenting fewer difficult problems of texture. Reduced to two pianos, the work has an antique, slightly ponderous quality reminiscent of the two-piano version of the Brahms Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op. 56b. One benefit of this enjoyable release may simply be that it has excavated some two-piano repertoire that has almost been lost; any one of these pieces could profitably be added to a two-piano recital otherwise containing more familiar repertoire.

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