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Goldberg Variations BWV 988
General Discussions - Part 2 (2002)

Continue from Part 1

Goldberg Variations

Barry Murray wrote (January 20, 2002):
Recently on the radio, I heard part of a recording of JS Bach's Goldberg Variations. Details as follows:

The Goldberg Variations
NICOLAS PARLE-HARPSICHORD
TALL POPPIES
TP110
Has anyone heard this recording? How does it compare with the competition? Thanks.

 

Goldbergs

Mario Zama Escalante wrote (March 8, 2002):
Some messages ago, there was the discussion about the style and musicality of several interpretations.

I have to say that I own 1955 Gould's version, which I enjoy. Last night I listened to the Hänssler set by Evgeni Koroliov, for the first time and then to Perrahia's (a 5th session). It is a pitty that in Gould's time, recordings were not as technically efficient as in our days, so I am not considering sound, but the Koroliov set really moved me. I find them very musical and fluently played. Only I have to say that the first half of cd # 1, sounded like Mozart (or is it that I am beginning to feel how much Bach is inside his music?). The rest of the set sounds like Bach. ¡No doubt!. With Perrahia happens something different. I find his Keyboard Concertos more expressive and warmer.

 

Goldbergs Danced!(?)

Piotr Jaworski wrote (April 4, 2002):
Odd question bu since still within the topic I raise it:

Zurcher Ballett will perform "Goldberg Variations" here in Warsaw in two weeks time - exactly on 18th of April. The pianist will be the - still rather young - Ukrainian Alexei Botwinow.

Anyone saw that performance? Anyone ever saw similar performance? I'll certainly go there and see this, but I'm already very much curious about it. And can hardly imagine .... frankly speaking.

Aya Itoi wrote (April 10, 2002):
[To Piotr Jaworski] I am a Bach admirer, who also LOVES ballet. I have heard some very nice things about Zuricher Ballet's "Goldberg", and I am very envious that you will be able to see it. My husband and I seriously thought about going to Zurich for a performance last September (I am Japanese but married to a German man and we live in Germany, close to Bonn), but my husband couldn't get away from work and we couldn't go.

There is also another ballet with the same music, choreographed by an American Jerome Robbins. Now, I have seen many ballets, classical or neo-classical or modern - and I will not hesitate one second to say - that Robbins' Goldberg is a gorgeous piece of ballet with equally gorgeous music, and I think it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life. It is not an easy ballet to dance, so not everybody has it, but New York City Ballet has it, they own it; and so does the Paris Opera and I think the Royal Ballet in England. If any of you has a chance --- I really recommend you to see it. It is heavenly.

So Piotr --- perhaps after the performance you could tell me a little bit about it? I certainly hope so - if you think it is not appropriate on the list, I would also welcome a private mail. I really look forward to hearing about the GV ballet.

Enjoy!

 

Goldberg

Bernard Nys wrote (May 1, 2002):
It's a pity that nobody could answer my question about the secret, double helix genetic code contained in the Goldberg Variations. Today I have been watching the 24H Bach day from July 2000 : again, the man who introduces the Goldberg Variations by Daniel Barenboim (much less exciting than Glen Gould by the way, even boring because he plays all the repeats) tells us that this music has at least 100 years of "advance".

Somebody on the list commented that Bach is just a baroque composer, but for me, what makes Bach different from Telemann or Händel is that he wrote music that is completely "timeless", like the Chaconne, Toccata BWV 565,... and that he did things that seem very unusual to baroque (romantic violin or oboe introductions in Cantates or Passions). Of course, as you all know, in my opinion, this visionary, prophet side of Bach is linked to his divine inspiration.

Michael Grover wrote (May 1, 2002):
[To Bernard Nys] I don't want to be rude, but I think probably a major reason no one responded to the query about DNA code contained in the GV is because most of us probably think it's rubbish. Sounds like something that would be contained in an 18th century tabloid newspaper, had they known anything about DNA code at the time. "Amazing Discovery! Double Helix Code Discovered in Leipzig Kantor's Clavier Works! Inside Pgs 3-4!"

I love Bach, I think he was brilliant... in fact, in my version of heaven, I think he's God's head composer and choirmaster. But "finding" things in his music other than the music itself (and extramusical associations such as
Bach intended to imply) goes a bit far, I think.

Juozas Rimas wrote (May 1, 2002):
< I love Bach, I think he was brilliant... in fact, in my version of heaven, I think he's God's head composer and choirmaster. But "finding" things in his music other than the music itself (and extramusical associations such as Bach intended to imply) goes a bit far, I think. >
Agreed, such games and tricks are appropriate perhaps only in Bach's cannons. But there is nothing special there - acrostics or letters hidden in the names of the notes.

Donald Satz wrote (May 1, 2002):
[To Micael Grover] I agree with Michael. This talk about DNA and divine inspiration is fine to pass the time but takes Bach into some super-human category which is just silly. The man was a mortal who happened to have great musical skills and inspiration which I consider superior to all other composers. However, I guess that this route of assigning to Bach's music motivations and symbols which are pie-in-the-sky won't quit any time soon. We can likely expect more discs such as "Morimur" based on speculations of a dubious nature.

What I find amusing is that some performers aren't willing to simply present Bach in the manner they prefer; they feel the need to create a justification for doing so. Personally, I'm getting tired of it all.

Juozas Rimas wrote (May 1, 2002):
Goldberg (Morimur)

< guess that this route of assigning to Bach's music motivations and symbols which are pie-in-the-sky won't quit any time soon. We can likely expect more discs such as "Morimur" based on speculations of a dubious nature. >
an ironic article on this topic: http://www.laweekly.com/ink/01/51/a-rich.shtml

Michael Grover wrote (May 1, 2002):
[To Juozas Rimas] Interesting article, but I have one question: why in the world did the author title the article, "Is There Sex After Bach?"?? I can't find any connection in the text. More tabloidism, I suppose. Anything to grab your eye and your attention.

Juozas Rimas wrote (May 2, 2002):
[To Michael Grover] Yes, it's a tabloid heading but I presume I understood what the author of the article wanted to say with it. He probably meant that searching for dubious secrets in Bach's music and presenting them in a form of a scientific research is as pointless as asking questions like "is there sex after Bach?".

(pointless but lucrative as the author tries to emphasize)

I also think that it's sad that such albums are best-sellers. A simply great performance of Bach's music will not sell as well as a mysterious speculation. Scandals are vital in today's show business for popularity.

 

Goldberg Variations

Dbeard 1971 wrote (September 9, 2002):
I enjoy Bach's "Goldberg Variations" but am experiencing an unusually difficult time in locating a copy of the CD on which they are performed on a double-manual harpsichord. Does anyone have any particular recommendations as to recording labels, artists, etc., where I may locate this? Thank you.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 9, 2002):
dbeard1971 stated:
>>I enjoy Bach's "Goldberg Variations" but am experiencing an unusually difficult time in locating a copy of the CD on which they are performed on a double-manual harpsichord. Does anyone have any particular recommendations as to recording labels, artists, etc., where I may locate this? Thank you.<<
the accompanying booklet does not give any information about the instrument used, it is my guess from looking at a picture on another volume of the complete edition, that Karl Richter, in the Karl Richter Edition on Teldec, plays a double manual Neupert harpsichord, the Bach model. The Goldberg Variations are coupled with the 6 Partitas on Teldec 4509-97904-2.

Does anyone have an further information about this recording?

Francine Renee Hall wrote (September 9, 2002):
I received the GVs as a gift -- Scott Ross on harpsichord, a 2-for-1 CD deal with Frescobaldi's music as well, on Virgin Veritas. It doesn't say in the booklet what type of harpsichord is used, but I would think that it's a two-manual. I assume that it is physically impossible to play the GVs on a one-manual harpsichord because there is a limited range of notes, octaves. P.S. As an afterthought, are there modern one-manual harpsichords with the range of a piano being built?

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 9, 2002):
[To dbeard1971] ALL recordings of the Goldberg Variations on harpsichord use a two-manual harpsichord! (Unless there's one I don't know about using a three-manual harpsichord for its further contrasts, but those instruments are rare....)

Some of the variations don't work on a single manual. The second manual is required here sometimes for tone color contrast, sometimes for voice crossing, and sometimes for both of those simultaneously: giving the music clarity where the hands would be crashing together. Anybody attempting this work on a single keyboard, for example on piano, has to do plenty of faking: redistributing notes from one hand to the other in places where the parts are at the same place on the keyboard at the same time. (The same is true of the keyboard works of Francois and Louis Couperin...most of the pieces work OK on a single manual but there are some "pieces croisees" that require two, for the same reasons as cited above.)

For one of the very best harpsichord recordings of the Goldberg Variations, get Pierre Hantaï on the Opus 111 label. It's a wonderful one to have at any price they're asking for it, but it's currently only $5.99 at http://www.broinc.com . Musically it's a stunning performance, plus he makes use of the latest scholarship:
taking into account the hand-corrected manuscript that Bach prepared *after* publication (discovered in the 1970s). Some other harpsichordists also play from this corrected edition (Alan Curtis was the first, I believe, in 1976).

There are many other excellent recordings in addition to these...all the way back to Wanda Landowska's two....

James Whiskeychan wrote (September 9, 2002):
Bradley Lehman said:
< Anybody attempting this work on a single keyboard, for example on piano, has to do plenty of faking: redistributing notes from one hand to the other in places where the parts are at the same place on the keyboard at the same time. >
This is the understatement of the year! I much prefer the piano, but if I had a harpsichord I would use it for the Goldberg Variations. It is beastly hard to play. I am only up to Variation 13. Might take me the rest of my life to be able to play it all the way through.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 9, 2002):
[To James Whiskeychan] Take heart, James: after Variation 11 it hardly gets any worse. That one, more than any, is impossible to bring off clearly enough on a single keyboard, and it's nasty enough on two. Yeah, 14, 20, 23, and 28 are also wickedly tough...but if you're in the middle of a performance and have just negotiated #11 successfully, you know that luck is with you today and things will be OK.

I applaud your efforts to keep working at it: this piece is more fulfilling to play than merely to listen to, and it doesn't reveal its secrets and marvels until one has really grappled with those physical difficulties. There's nothing like the exhilaration of going all the way through this piece from beginning to end, having nailed down everything or almost everything along the way, an amazing feeling of accomplishment. Well, almost nothing. The Art of Fugue gives even more of that euphoria, because it's harder....

 

Goldberg Variations on harpsichord

Bibermx wrote (October 6, 2002):
Céline Frisch or Pierre Hantaï?

Riccardo Nughes wrote (October 6, 2002):
[To Bibermx] Frisch.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 6, 2002):
[To Riccardo Nughes] Why? (I haven't heard Frisch's yet...is it available in the US?)

Is Hantaï's still half price at http://www.broinc.com ?

Riccardo Nughes wrote (October 6, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] IMO, this is a lively and youthful performance, genre "breath of fresh air" :) The harpsichord sounds great and there is an interesting bonus cd. You can hear an excerpt here: http://www.abeillemusique.com/produit.php?cle=159

As regards the Hantai recording I've always found it without "soul", 32 miniatures (each one charming) without a "glue", a global vision (IMVHO, obviuosly).

BTW Brad what about this "clavecin a pédalier" ?
http://www.abeillemusique.com/produit.php?cle=6694

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 6, 2002):
[To Riccardo Nughes] Ziemlich frisch, ja!

I like her debut CD....

Charles Francis wrote (October 7, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] You might like the performance of Christine Schornsheim (2 CDs). Lots of RealAudio samples here: Amazon.com

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 8, 2002):
[To Charles Francis] Really, it's hard (and I think rather pointless) to try to pick just one or two "best" to be the only recordings one has of the Goldberg Variations on harpsichord. There are so many with tremendous virtues, all good at bringing out different aspects of the music, I wouldn't want to be without any of these:

- Dahler (Claves)
- Leonhardt (the DHM is better than the Teldec and Vanguard versions)
- Curtis (EMI)
- Jaccottet (Intercord or cheap labels)
- Jarrett (ECM)
- Landowska (both the RCA and EMI versions)
- van Asperen (EMI)
- Hantai (Opus 111)
- Verlet (Astree)
- Kipnis (Angel)
- Kirkpatrick (Haydn Society LP, better than his others)
- Marlowe (Decca LP)

And I have another dozen (at least) on harpsichord that I don't find as enjoyable as those, so I won't bother listing them here. Plus there are plenty (such as Frisch and Schornsheim) I haven't heard yet...omission of some recording from the above list doesn't necessarily mean I don't like it; I may not have heard it. In some box I probably still have a tape of myself playing it from a 1985 concert; this is a landmark piece that every serious harpsichordist is supposed to have in repertoire, and most do. It's a piece to experience from as many different angles as one can, and it reveals different things every time.

Anyway, I'm not going to take my pile of favorites above and try to assemble some meta-version choosing individual variations from each. To me, the cumulative effect within a single performance is more important and more fulfilling, hearing how the performer shapes the vast canvas, than I could ever get from any composite of "sound bites."

Bibermx wrote (October 8, 2002):
Thank you for your feedback on harpsichord interpretations.I bought the Frisch CD;it is a marvellous interpretation,will all the repeats, perhaps a little faster in some of the variations (better this than the pompous solemnity of some) and overall the bethat I have heard.It transpires a marvelous joie de vivre. She is young and beautiful,and it shows. Cafe Zimmerman,a french ensemble, play the canons in a second CD with great finesse. I recommend it very much.

P.S. Does anyone know if the Goldberg's are recorded on fortepiano?

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 8, 2002):
bibermx wrote:
< P.S. Does anyone know if the Goldberg's are recorded on fortepiano? >
I haven't heard of any, and it's hard to imagine how it would be done anyway...so many of the variations require two manuals (for tone-color contrast, and for physical convenience in playing crossed parts). For the same reason, there aren't any on clavichord.

On the other hand, an accordion transcription is out there; and it's surprising how many players of modern piano attempt the GV despite having only one keyboard. On a single keyboard so many passages have to be faked or rearranged or redistributed, else the hands would crash into one another. (The difficulty is not only physical, but also in making the lines sound differentiated from one another.)

Even as it is, on two-manual harpsichord, one has to be especially careful of elbows and wrists and sleeves when the hands are crossing over or under one another. Tricky piece to play.

Thomas Radleff wrote (October 9, 2002):
Definitely my favourite Goldberg Variations recording on harpsichord is by an US-american artist who is hardly ever mentioned on this list:

Barbara Harbach. (Gasparo 1990; a 3-CD pack with her AoF recording on organ.)

In my ears, her playing has the perfect balance of clarity, technical raffinesse and humour. Are there any other recordings from this rare bird ?

P.S.
BTW, not Fortepiano / Hammerklavier, but Cimbalom, the hungarian hammered dulcimer:
Goldberg-Variationen, played by the two ladies Ágnes Szakály & Rózsa Farkas on two cimbaloms. Hungaroton 1998. Does not sound exotic at all, but quite organic.
Recommended.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 9, 2002):
[To Thomas Radleff] Barbara Harbach is a specialist in 20th century music and music written by women (Baroque and otherwise). She's recorded several dozen discs; I have one of her LPs from 1985 where she played Adler, Persichetti, Albright, Martinu, and Templeton.

I wasn't aware she had recorded any Bach, but the album you mention (with online samples) is at: http://shopping.yahoo.com/shop?d=product&id=1921532096

From what I hear in those, her ornamentation style reminds me of Tureck's and Kipnis'...plus a big dose of Anthony Newman. With Kipnis it seems natural and spontaneous; here it sounds to me a bit self-conscious and awkward, like graffiti, like fingers itching to do something clever. Interesting, but not my "cup of tea." (It's like I was saying a few days ago, about how some performers seem to put up a scaffold around the architecture to show us the things they've found interesting, as opposed to more simply playing the piece and letting things flow.) I do like her sprightly sense of humor.

In the sample of the canon at the fifth she startled me: in one of her ornaments she used a note that otherwise doesn't exist in the Goldberg Variations (and many of the harpsichords in existence don't have it, either). The Goldberg Variations never go higher than d''', but Harbach plays the E-flat above it.

Thomas Radleff wrote (October 9, 2002):
Goldberg V. & Komm, süßer Tod

[To Bradley Lehman] though I still like listening to Barbara Harbach´s Goldberg Variations (as I am doing just now) you´re perfectly right with your remarks on her ornamentations. Even myself, I often find them rather additions than arabesques; for example in Var. VII and X; that´s where I hear more Harbach than Bach. Nevertheless - it´s lively; she keeps my attention. (The recording quality is superb! The harpsichord lute register beautiful...)

Sure her version is not the only one I like, but from time to time it is good to clean out my ears, and she does it in a witty way. And yet I´m not getting tired of it, as it often might happen when we are attracted by some firework tricking. (Your tale about the scaffold in Roslyn Chapel gives a good image: attraction by too many details might keep us from percieving the entity. That´s why I love Rosen´s AoF - "neutral", quasi un-personal recording, but with his respectful devotion for the whole work he helps to make it clear for us.)

There are two more Goldberg V.´s interpretations - both of them rather extreme, though on opposite poles - which have not yet been discussed on the list, AFAIK:

Vladimir Feltsman on piano, MusicMasters 1992; a live recording from Moscow. He is switching voices by crossing hands, to "achieve variety" in the repeats, which seems to be his greatest interest. And more of these
"tricks". Startling. Irritating. Fascinating.

The other recording is the extreme opposite:
Sergio Vartolo on harpsichord, Tactus 1990. The longest Goldberg Variations ever: 101´41´´. But not necessarily always slow... a lecture on searching for a new view, and on patience. Molto rubato; like loosing the way from time to time, looking back here and there, stopping for a while...I don´t know whether there is another word for his style but "manierism". A surprise at the end: he sings! - not like G.G. does, but Vartolo sings the beginnings of the original german song lines that form the themes of the Quodlibet. Anyone ever heard it?

Thanks, Brad, for your remarks about Dowland´s hit and the possible connex to Komm, süßer Tod.

BTW, it is Barbara Harbach who takes the Orgelchoral version of "Komm, süßer Tod" as a final piece of her AoF recording, instead of the doubtful deathbed chorale. I know both of Stokowski´s recordings, and I like the mono even more - due to his courage, his long breath and the incredibly slow tempo, here the emotions still sound authentically (before they pass the gate to Disneyworld, as they do in some of his orchestrations); in this case, tears from a weeping heart instead of glycerine drops. Even Kitsch can creep down to the depths of our souls. Yum ! Almost as moving as Mozart´s "Maurerische Trauermusik", or some Mahler.

 

Continue on Part 3

Goldberg Variations BWV 988: Details
Recordings:
1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019
Comparative Review: Goldberg Variations on Piano:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Comparative Review: Round-Up of Goldberg Variations Recordings:
Recordings | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Reviews of Individual Recordings:
GV - R. Barami, J. Crossland, O. Dantone, D. Propper | GV - M. Cole | GV - J. Crossland | GV - E. Dershavina | GV - S. Dinnerstein | GV - R. Egarr [Lehman] | GV - R. Egarr [Satz] | GV - R. Egarr [Bright] | GV - Feltsman | GV- P. Hantai | GV - P. Hantaï (2nd) | GV - K. Haugsand | GV - A. Hewitt | GV - R. Holloway | GV- H. Ingolfsdottir | GV - J. Jando | GV - B. Lagacé | GV - G. Leonhardt | GV- K. Lifschitz | GV - A. Newman | GV - T. Nikolayeva 3rd | GV- J. Payne | GV - W. Riemer | GV - C. Rousset | GV - S. Schepkin, M. Yudina & P. Serkin | GV - A. Schiff [ECM] | GV- H. Small | GV - M. Suzuki | GV - G. Toth | GV - K.v. Trich | GV - R. Tureck [Satz] | GV - R. Tureck [Lehman] | GV- B. Verlet | GV - A. Vieru | GV - J. Vinikour | GV - A. Weissenberg | GV - Z. Xiao-Mei
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Quodlibet in GV | GV for Strings
Discussions of Individual Recordings:
GV - D..Barenboim | GV - P.J. Belder | GV - E. Dershavina | GV - S. Dinnerstein | GV - R. Egarr | GV - V. Feltsman | GV - C. Frisch | GV - G. Gould | GV - P. Hantaï | GV - R. Holloway | GV - J. Jando | GV - K. Jarrett | GV - G. Leonhardt | GV - V. Makin | GV - A. Newman | GV - S. Ross | GV - A. Schiff | GV - R. Schirmer | GV - H. Small | GV - G. Sultan | GV - G. Toth | GV - R. Tureck | GV - S. Vartolo | GV - B. Verlet
Article:
The Quodlibet as Represented in Bach’s Final Goldberg Variation BWV 988/30 [T. Braatz]

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Last update: ýJanuary 20, 2009 ý14:12:29