Described by The New York Times as “a man whose nature was designed with pianos in mind”, Anthony Goldstone was recognised as one of Britain’s most respected pianists. This exceptional musician passed away 2 January at the age of 72. As a major figure in the Divine Art Records catalogue (as well as recording for Toccata and previously Olympia and Gamut) both as a soloist and duo partner with his wife Caroline Clemmow, he will be very sadly missed. Held in the highest esteem by critics worldwide, for some reason he never quite achieved the international media recognition he deserved. Divine Art is currently working on Goldstone’s last solo recording which is likely to be released in the summer (“Piano at the Ballet, Vol. 2”) and also the re-release of the stunning 7-CD set of the complete works for piano duet by Franz Schubert, which when first issued by Olympia in 1999, established Goldstone and Clemmow as Britain’s leading piano duo.
Born in Liverpool, Anthony Goldstone studied at the Royal Manchester College of Music, now the RNCM, which later honoured him with a Fellowship, where his piano professor was Derrick Wyndham, and later in London with Maria Curcio, one of Schnabel’s greatest pupils – which incidentally makes him a sixth-generation pupil of Beethoven. Inspired by this wonderful heritage, Goldstone always regarded the classics and Romantics as being at the heart of his repertoire; this is illustrated by two specific CD projects: a series of rare Russian Romantics – Rebikov, Lyapunov, Arensky and Glière – and a series of six CDs devoted to the major solo works of Schubert which were very highly praised: “Goldstone is a native speaker of Schubert in the highest degree. This is perhaps the greatest version of the work [Sonata, D. 959] I have ever encountered, either live or on disc.” – Fanfare, USA. His series of solo CDs for Divine Art have ranged from Beethoven and Mozart to 20th century British composers (all with new completions and including many rarities and premiere recordings) to transcriptions from ballet and opera, all of which have received the highest accolades.
International prizes in Munich and Vienna and a Gulbenkian Fellowship launched him on a busy schedule of recitals and concertos. His travels took him to concert appearances in Europe, North and South America, Asia, Africa and Australasia, prestigious festival invitations and many broadcasts. Numerous London appearances included important solo recitals and Promenade Concerts, notably the 1976 Last Night, after which Benjamin Britten wrote to him, “Thank you most sincerely for that brilliant performance of my Diversions. I wish I could have been at the Royal Albert Hall to join in the cheers.” This was one of four Proms appearances.
Complementary to the mainstream repertoire was his avid interest in exploring intriguing musical byways – not only unknown works by acknowledged masters, leading to première recordings and performances of works by Parry, Sibelius, Bruch, Franck, Mendelssohn, Dvořák, Holst and many more but also unjustly neglected nineteenth-century composers such as Goetz, Herzogenberg, Alkan and Moscheles.
A personal reflection from Divine Art founder and CEO Stephen Sutton: “Tony first told me of his illness back in the summer of 2016; it had developed rather quickly and long term treatments were scheduled, but sadly liver failure brought his life and creativity to an early end. Until the very last week, he was writing to me about his projects, retaining an amazing level of wit and even frivolity in what must have been extremely difficult circumstances, referring to the ongoing Schubert Duets project as ‘Sherbert Dips’.“I first met Tony and his wife Caroline, who I am also honoured to call a friend, in late 2000 (if I recall correctly without digging up files!) when he approached me about the release of his recordings of Schubert solo piano works; I believe he had been introduced by one of our other artists. Long story short – we issued three double CD sets of the Schubert Masterworks which received the most wonderful reviews, and led to my encouraging Tony and Caroline to submit more projects. This they did in spades: both solo and duo recordings appeared at the rate of two or three a year, forming the backbone of our piano repertoire. And while Tony was not enamoured of the avant-garde, his delight in finding unpublished manuscripts and unfinished pieces, which soon became new performing editions, matched our own ethos of expanding the recorded repertoire, not only in new music but from all ages. His completions of unfinished works by Schubert, Mozart and others also garnered much praise for the seamless ‘invisible joins’ – testament to Tony’s high skill as a composer. Through the years Tony and Caroline (though we met but infrequently) became very special to me; for the quality of musicianship and performance, but also efficiency and speed in providing detailed program notes – models of their type – that avoided the delays and foot-thick files that some projects seem to engender! Always a perfectionist, our main quibbles usually centered around whether an apostrophe in a certain typeface should be curly or straight. What most customers (and critics) have not realized, because we did not promote the fact, is that practically all of the Goldstone recordings were made by Tony himself at his local church of St John the Baptist, Alkborough, which has housed the couples’ twin Grotrian-Steinweg instruments for many years. To do this and be given so much praise for sound quality is another facet of Tony’s skill and dedication. “In the early spring of 2016 Tony presented his last solo recording; this will be released later this year as ‘Piano at the Ballet, volume 2’. (In fact, the contract for this project, which he signed last week, arrived in my office today – 4 January). Whilst still a fantastic performance by any standard, I could tell that it was not Tony at 100%. I said nothing but was less surprised to hear, some months later, of the illness that was afflicting him. As well, the 7-CD box set of Schubert’s Complete works for piano duet is in progress for release in early summer. Both recordings will be suitable memorials to a wonderful musician, and a lasting gift for Caroline.”