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Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Played by Rosalyn Tureck

Recordings

K-1

J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations

Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Rosalyn Tureck (Piano)

Allegro / Everest

1947

2-LP / TT: 90:21

1st recording of Goldberg Variations BWV 988 by R. Tureck. The earliest commercial recording of GV on the piano.
Review: Young Rosalyn Tureck’s Goldberg Variations
Review: Tureck vs harpsichord in the Goldbergs

K-5

Rosalyn Tureck II: Bach (Great Pianists of the 20th Century)

1. Duets BWV 802-805 [3:30, 3:44, 3:45, 3:10]
2. French Overture (Partita) in B minor BWV 831 [33:48]
3. Italian Concerto in F major BWV 971 [13:32]
4. Goldberg Variations BWV 988 [93:58 / 93:45]

Rosalyn Tureck (Piano)

Philips (from HMV/Capitol)

Jun, Aug 1957 [4]; Jun 1959 [1-3]

2-CD / TT: 155:45

2nd recording of Goldberg Variations BWV 988 by R. Tureck. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London, England. 1st recording of Italian Concerto BWV 971 by R. Tureck.
Review: Young Rosalyn Tureck’s Goldberg Variations
Review: Tureck vs harpsichord in the Goldbergs
Buy this album at: Amazon.com

K-8

J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations

Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Rosalyn Tureck (Harpsichord)

Columbia

Mar 1978

2-LP / TT: 82:59

3rd recording of Goldberg Variations BWV 988 by R. Tureck
Review: Young Rosalyn Tureck’s Goldberg Variations
Review: Tureck vs harpsichord in the Goldbergs

K-10

J.S. Bach: Les Variations Goldberg

Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Rosalyn Tureck (Piano)

Fonovox Scalen

Dec 1980

2-CD / TT: 88:47

4th recording of Goldberg Variations BWV 988 by R. Tureck
Review: Young Rosalyn Tureck’s Goldberg Variations
Review: Tureck vs harpsichord in the Goldbergs
Buy this album at:

K-11

J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations

Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Rosalyn Tureck (Piano)

VAI Audio

1979-1984 or 1988

CD / TT: 74:46

5th recording of Goldberg Variations BWV 988 by R. Tureck
Review: Young Rosalyn Tureck’s Goldberg Variations
Review: Tureck vs harpsichord in the Goldbergs
Buy this album at: Amazon.com

K-17

J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations - St. Petersburg 1995

Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Rosalyn Tureck (Piano)

VAI Audio

Jun 1995

2-CD / TT: 92:38

6th recording of Goldberg Variations BWV 988 by R. Tureck. Recorded at the Great Hall of the Philharmonic, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Review: Young Rosalyn Tureck’s Goldberg Variations
Review: Tureck vs harpsichord in the Goldbergs
Buy this album at: Amazon.com

K-19

J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations

Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Rosalyn Tureck (Piano)

Deutsche Grammophon

Mar 1998

2-CD / TT: 91:10

7th recording of Goldberg Variations BWV 988 by R. Tureck. Recorded at Friedrich-Ebert-Hall, Hamburg-Harburg, Germany.
Review: Young Rosalyn Tureck’s Goldberg Variations
Review: Tureck vs harpsichord in the Goldbergs
Buy this album at: Amazon.com | Amazon.com

V-4

Live in St. Petersburg - The Goldberg Variations [K-17]

Goldberg Variations. BWV 988

Rosalyn Tureck (Piano)

VAI

1995

VHS / TT:
DVD / TT: 95:00

6th recording of Goldberg Variations BWV 988 by R. Tureck. Recorded at the Great Hall of the Philharmonic, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Review: Young Rosalyn Tureck’s Goldberg Variations
Review: Tureck vs harpsichord in the Goldbergs
Buy this album at: Amazon.com [DVD]

Goldberg Variations - Tureck...

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 26, 2003):
Donald Satz wrote:
< Gramophone doesn't think very well of Tureck's Bach, and neither does Brad. Give Cole a try - you might be surprised, and the cost is quite low. >
At least Tureck on piano (in several attempts, with various results) is MUCH, much better than Tureck on harpsichord.

Here's what I wrote about Tureck's harpsichord debacle in the Goldbergs:

-----

For some perspective on Rosalyn Tureck's Goldberg Variations on piano, here's what she sounds like in her 1979 recording of them on harpsichord.

I have this on Columbia 35900, a two-LP set. She takes 83 minutes and observes all repeats. The set also includes the Aria and Variations in the Italian Style, BWV 989, another 17 minutes.

What does it sound like?

I was listening to the Goldbergs and my wife was in the next room. I didn't know she was paying attention at all, and she has no idea what recordings of the Goldbergs we have, and she's never heard of Tureck. She called me over and said, "That sounds like a woman player who is very good but doesn't really play harpsichord." I said she was exactly right, she beamed, and I asked what clues gave away the player. "She has a delicate touch so I was pretty sure it's not a man. And she plays all the notes and chords right together so doesn't sound like a harpsichord player."

Yes. It sounds like what it is: a good pianist playing all the notes (and then some) on harpsichord with a delicate touch, but without really understanding how to let the harpsichord be expressive. The result sounds like a vast intellectual exercise, objective and unemotional. I've had this set for at least a dozen years and this play-through reminded me again why I hardly ever listen to it. 1) It doesn't sound like a harpsichordist, and 2) it's boring. And 3), see below.

About repeats, Tureck says in the jacket notes:

"This is the third time I have recorded the Goldberg Variations, twice before on the piano and now on the harpsichord, each time with repeats. The infinite beauty and richness of this work may be most fully perceived and experienced through the unifiof diverse ideas. This process of unification can only be achieved through the artistic perception and fitting treatment, both structurally and stylistically, of the repeats in all the variations as these are indicated in the musical text. Whether in the concert hall or in the personal atmosphere of one's home the listening experience becomes complete as a result of the totality of the unified view.

"The repeat is not here conceived or treated as a simplistic repetition or echo or 'contrast' to the first playing. It is a fresh view of the kaleidoscopic relationships of the structure. Additionally the historical performance practice of added embellishments is an authentic stylistic device for repeats under certain conditions. This practice is implanted within the very structure of the Aria and 10 Variations in the Italian Style, and here I apply embellishments in the repeats according to the individual demands of the motivic figurations in each variation. The Goldberg Variations, however, as a mature work are composed with incomparably more density of ideas and structural relationships, not only within each variation but also in the relationships of variation to variation. To overembellish the repeats in this composition is to abuse the application of performance practice meant for more loosely composed forms and would result in muddying clear waters already rich with multiform life. Moreover, in a work so tightly structured, luxuriant added embellishment is a misdirected device historically, and may deteriorate to a tasteless, personal self-indulgence on the part of the performer. There are other and varied ways of performing repeats. My treatment of the repeats affords a fresh view of each variation sometimes by way of registration, or articulation, or dynamics, etc., etc., and always the repeat treatment is considered: 1) in relation to the diverse structural implications of each variation; and 2) in relation to the surrounding variations. The shape of the entire work is formed by the infinite subtlety of relationships of movement to movement and therefore can be understood more fully when conceived in terms of its totality and uninterrupted progress from the opening aria to its eloquent return. For this reason I perform this music, whether in concert or on records, with all repeats integrated within the entire concept."

Nice words. And those are basically good goals, although I believe there should be more feeling the right things to play rather than thinking out embellishments from only a structural point of view.

But does Tureck follow her own words and avoid overembellishing the repeats? No! She overloads the work with so much graffiti that it indeed "muddies clear waters already rich with multiform life." She restricts herself to signed ornamentation (mordents, trills, etc., anything that can be indicated in the score by a symbol) rather than changing melody and rhythm, and her intellectual restraint is useful there, but she puts in so much signed ornamentation that it indeed "deteriorates to a tasteless, personal self-indulgence." How will the next phrase be disfigured in the quest for structural clarity? And the next? All I could think of after the first half hour of this was Marcel Duchamp's work where he added a mustache to the Mona Lisa. Get to the daggone downbeats without putting four-note trills onto them, already!

As the 83 minutes ended, I could admire the overall consistency of concept while disliking just about every moment along the way. The "multiform life" is pretty much dead in the water when all the honest notes are played strictly in tempo and all the added notes have no spontaneity. Real life has irrationality and unpredictability that enlivens structures. Real things don't move or grow with that much mechanical symmetry. Tureck's playing doesn't dance or sigh or belch or grin, it just goes on and on and on. Her articulation is occasionally interesting but (like everything else) it doesn't sound natural.

Tureck does achieve her goal of making the performance sound structural. It's one way to play this piece, post-modern, I suppose. Tureck uses the harpsichord as a neutral instrument for an interpretation that's a mental exercise (like the way Gould played Handel on harpsichord), rather than letting it sing and speak. She plays against the instrument, not with it. The performance is a huge mind game with hardly anything for the body or emotions. That's a fatal flaw.

Here's some further description, probably making the actual listening to it virtually unnecessary.

Start from the Tureck recording at William F Buckley's house. Her interpretation there is fairly close to the one on harpsichord, intellectually. Her strange articulative choices are nearly the same, and she inserts her "structural" ornamentation graffiti at most of the same places. However, on piano she can shade everything with dynamics and tone, making it sound graceful; on harpsichord her articulations and graffiti just stick out oppressively. So, mentally just take that performance and subtract all the dynamic subtlety. Imagine everything considerably more chunky and "notey" rather than forward-flowing, since she strikes the notes of both hands almost always simultaneously on the harpsichord (the way a pianist does, but a harpsichordist does not...). She didn't know how to make long notes seem louder/more sustained than other notes in the texture; the front ends of the notes all sound the same. Insert even bigger pauses and ritards at the double bars (even within variations), chopping the music into sections. In the harpsichord recording she makes sure we see the compositional bricks as individual bricks, at the expense of the flow that is pretty decent in the Buckley performances. Finally, imagine more than half the beauty drained out of the piece. Tureck knew how to project some emotion on the piano but not on harpsichord; the harpsichord recording is just an objective presentation of all the notes with Tureck's quirks added to the text.

Or if you don't have the one from Buckley's house, start from the 1998 DG but mentally speed up most of the variations 5% to 10%. As before, take away all the dynamic and tonal inflections. Also take away most of the serenity. Then proceed as noted above.

As I noted in the review this morning, Tureck plays a generic interpretation that exists in her imagination, and the instrument is only the tool for expressing it. On the piano she can explore every corner of the Platonic ideal structure in her mind, caressing every detail and investing it with meaning. On the harpsichord she can only sketch in some of the most salient points while leaving everything else neutral.

Tureck's marvelous control of the piano is wasted and inaudible on the harpsichord. The harpsichord sounds like a primitive and substantially inferior instrument under her hands, which it is (under the hands of a pianist, not in general!). It's not necessarily Tureck's fault; it's just what happens whenever good pianists play harpsichord without really learning what a harpsichord can do, without treating the harpsichord as an entirely different instrument since there is a different technique for basic expression. Without harpsichord technique Tureck's performance is just a monochromatic dull trudge, and time seems to go by very slowly.

Here in the Goldbergs on harpsichord it's as if we're hearing a bad Tureck clone whose best feature is erased. Tureck's greatest strength is and always has been her phenomenal ability to weight every finger and every note perfectly in the counterpoint. On harpsichord that's gone, and what remains is only an objective and neutral intellectual dissection of the piece. Tureck makes Bach sound wholly academic and dry. She fusses with registration (especially with too much 4-foot tone) to inject some variety and illustrate some more of her structure, but it ends up sounding more shrill and fussy than pleasing.

It's like the people in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" after they've been transformed. Or maybe a two-dimensional black and white photocopy of a three-dimensional color object. Whatever, it's not paappealing. Perhaps it's best that this isn't available on CD. Listen to Tureck on piano where she allows Bach to sound alive, and where we can hear more directly into her musical imagination.

(July 23, 2001)
Brad Lehman

Peter Bright wrote (February 26, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Yes, well I can neither agree or disagree with respect to Tureck's harpsichord playing. I was barely aware that she recorded on it (I was well aware of her bizarre experiences with the moog synthesizer, though!). The fact is that she is far better known (I'm sure, with good reason) as a pianist and this is how she will always be remembered.

As you suggest, "listen to Tureck on piano where she allows Bach to sound alive" - I don't like all her recordings by any means (her final Goldbergs, recorded in the late '90s was horribly slow and plodding), but she can also
create wonderful music that draws the listener in. And, like Richter (although he wasn't entirely happy with his WTK, particularly book II), she shows exceptional insight, particularly in the some of the longer,
'difficult' fugues.

Donald Satz wrote (February 26, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] I should have known that if I mentioned Tureck, Brad would go on a tear.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 26, 2003):
[To Donald Satz] Naw, just an easy three-minute cut and paste job from the list archives. No tearing involved.

 

Tureck recordings of the Goldberg Variations

Carrow McCarn wrote (September 9, 2003):
Donald Satz writes:
< I have kept all four versions but rarely play the VAI recordings. >
For my money, the best of the commercially available versions of the Goldbergs is the EMI monaural recording that was republished in the Philips Great Pianists series.

In addition to the ones that are currently available, there are at least two more commercial recordings that Rosalyn made that are not in print. One is the first one, recorded in 1949 but not published until 1951, which was a two disc set on the original Allegro label. The second is Rosalyn's only commercial recording of the work on the harpsichord, which was made for CBS Masterworks (now Sony Classics) in the early '80s has not, to my knowledge, appeared on CD, and it should.

There also are a number of private recordings, including a spectacular "double" performance, first on the harpsichord and then on the piano, that Rosalyn gave in Carnegie Hall in November, 1977.

 

Tureck BWV 988/was Complete Cantatas

Jack Botelho wrote (November 25, 2003):
Sato Fumitaka wrote:
<< All the available 100+ recordings I trust. >>
< I mean I will be playing the piano.
BTW, I have Tureck's 1998 recording of Goldberg (BWV 988) and love it > very much, but do not have the earlier ones by her. Could someone strongly recommend the earliear ones, and give the reason for that? >
I hope I have your name correctly. I am now holding in my hands a recording of BWV 988 Goldberg Variations by Rosalyn Tureck, piano, originally issued in 1988 (VAI AUDIO, VAIA 1029). AAD stereo. Total Time: 74'46. I will spend the next few days of listening time with it and will post an opinion for you!

Jack Botelho wrote (November 27, 2003):
[To Jack Botelho] It has been a long, long, time since I have listened to the Goldberg Variations played on piano, but I must thank you for introducing me to this outstanding artist, Rosalyn Tureck, who I understand has just recently passed away.

Again, many thanks for this and I hope other members of this list will find the same delight as I have through being suggested a recording or artist they have formerly been unfamiliar with!

Sato Fumitaka wrote (November 27, 2003):
[To Jack Botelho] Anytime.

I think there is much much larger amount of knowledge that I can learn in the forum here than I can suggest, of course. I am expecting that.

Sato Fumitaka wrote (December 6, 2003):
Sorry, I have sent an incomplete post. The correct post is as follows:
< I have Tureck's 1998 recording of Goldberg (BWV988) and love it very much, but do not have the earlier ones by her. Could someone strongly recommend the earliear ones, and give the reason for that? >
Now, I've got and listened to the 1957 version of Rosalyn Tureck's Goldberg performance.
I prefer the 1957 version to that of the 1998 version, especially I feel the accentuation of the former is far more comfortable and stimulating to listen.

 

Tureck's last Goldbergs

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 12, 2004):
Donald Satz wrote:
< For what it's worth, I consider both the Tureck/DG and Schiff/ECM among the best piano versions on disc - just different. >
Granted, my wording was a bit harsh.

Where I said:
>> (A performance that kills the music through too much symmetry is Tureck's on DG, the way she made even the ornamentation itself so structural; I'm thankful that Schiff doesn't do that here!)<<
I should have stated it thus: I prefer hearing a performance that sounds like play, not like a meticulously-edited structure. Obviously Tureck was in complete control of every note, and exactly the place she wanted to put them all: but in listening to it, I get the feeling that she over-thought it. I miss the spontaneity, and the whole side of rhythmic flexibility: her performance didn't allow anything irrational to creep into the structure, and I feel that such straitjacketing of the notes is a fatal musical flaw.

IMO such a hyper-rational delivery makes Bach seem too one-sided: as Pablo Casals famously scoffed against opponents, "Bach the professor! who knew very well his counterpoint and his fugue and nothing else!" I like to hear the music singing and speaking more freely, and therefore I find it difficult to listen through Tureck's measured symmetries. (To "Schiff" it: it's a case where I can't listen for more than 20 minutes or so, hands on heart, while I have no trouble listening to his as the flow is so much more believable.)

I like Tureck's earlier rendition at Buckley's house better...the piano one. And not her recording on harpsichord: it sounds like a very good pianist bewildered by the different expressive techniques available on harpsichord, such that she didn't make use of them (i.e. treating the harpsichord like an inferior instrument, instead of like an equally good but different instrument). That performance strikes me as pretty empty, except for the obvious "structuralizing" she was so good at. Every little ornament too thought-out and too carefully placed, in advance, instead of just going with the flow and playing the thing already.

Bob Henderson wrote (February 13, 2004):
The performance at Buckleys house is a one - time - only - captured moment of greatness. There would never be another, even for her. Greatness defies analysis. Thank goodness.

Donald Satz wrote (February 13, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Tureck does sing to me.

Charlie Ervin McCarn wrote (February 14, 2004):
[To Bob Henderson] I will always remember Rosalyn Tureck's Carnegie Hall performances in November , 1977. First she played them on the harpsichord. It was a Dowd I think. There was a big speaker under the instrument, and the harpsichord was sensitively amplified so that its sound filled Carnegie Hall.

Tureck was a wonderful and natural harpsichordist. It was a great performance.

There was a dinner break - about two hours if I remember right, and then she played them again, this time on the piano. It was the greatest performance of the "Goldberg Variations" I have ever heard. I will never forget the sublime transition she made from 21 to 22. She never captured it so well in any of the recordings, at least the ones I have heard.

Sure. Every note was in its proper place that day, exactly as she wanted it to be, but there was nothing rigid or unnatural about the music that Rosalyn Tureck made that night.

If only someone had recorded those performances. That would really be something to have, particularly the piano one.

PS: Has Sony ever published Rosalyn Tureck's harpsichord "Goldberg Variations" on CD.

 

Tureck's hpsi Goldbergs

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 23, 2004):
Riccardo Nughes wrote:
< Sony release for the first time on CD Tureck's Goldberg on harpsichord -> http://secure.mdt.co.uk/details/5174912.htm >
With due respect for the dearly departed: she was a spectacularly good pianist and a non-harpsichordist. Let's remember her for that terrific performance of Goldbergs at the William F Buckley house, on piano, and let
it go at that! (Still available on CD? Will they ever put it back out as a 2-disc set with the cut repeats restored, as the cassette version had?)

I've had that Columbia/Sony hpsi set on LP for at least a dozen years, and I can't get through any consecutive 15 minutes of it. Her touch on the instrument was so inexpressive, and it unfortunately negates the creative thoughtfulness in her interpretation.

 

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]

Rosalyn Tureck: Short Biography | Recordings of Non-Vocal Works
Reviews of Non-Vocal Recordings:
Review: WTC Book I - Tureck (1975-1976) | Young Rosalyn Tureck’s Goldberg Variations | Tureck vs harpsichord in the Goldbergs
Discussions of Non-Vocal Works:
Goldberg Variations BWV 988 - played by Rosalyn Tureck

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Last update: ýOctober 4, 2006 ý10:33:36