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Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Bernard Lagacé (Organ)

An Organ Version of Bach's Goldberg Variations

R-20

Bach: Complete Organ and Other Keyboard Works, Vol. 20
Bach: Goldberg Variations

Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Bernard Lagacé (Organ) [1961 Beckerath]

Analekta/Fleurs de Lys

Nov 1995

CD / TT: 77:43

Recorded at Immaculate Conception Church, Montréal, Canada.
Buy this album at: Amazon.com | Amazon.de | Amazon.com [Box Set] | Amazon.de [Box Set]

An Organ Version of Bach's Goldberg Variations

Donald Satz wrote (November 28, 2007):
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 (1741-42)

Bernard Lagacé (organ)
Recorded Immaculate Conception Church, Montreal, 1995
Analekta 23068 [77:32]

It's always a nice change of pace to listen to the Goldbergs performed by a worthy Bach performing artist and played on a very attractive-sounding modern organ. Having just given this Bernard Legace disc its final two spins, I can confidently report that listening to it is a highly pleasurable experience. Legace uses the organ to charm and seduce the listener, and I think he's done a successful job of it. Also, his registrations are quite pleasing and rhythmic flow is exceptional.

However, the charm and seduction so prevalent in the performances are also problematic to a degree. Given that the organ is the supreme instrument to convey celebration and majesty, I am disappointed that Legace did not instill more of these traits into his interpretation. In those variations that demand majesty such as the No. 16 "Overture" and No. 30 "Quodlibet", Legace comes through splendidly, but he discards it entirely elsewhere.

While I'm on my "complaint" jag, I'll also mention that Legace displays no particular interest in examining the underside of the human condition; that's a shame, because the organ is also made to order for digging into the dark side of life. One last set of reservations - Legace favors a very smooth delivery with rounded contours that gets rather ho-hum after a few variations; this is not a very interesting performance of the Goldberg Variations. Combined with slowish tempos in the faster variations, excitement is another quality little in evidence.

Don's Conclusions: Although Legace's performance is a fine one, I do feel that he has missed a sterling opportunity to give us a fantastic Goldbergs on organ. My basic reservation is that Legace has not used the organ to its best advantage, and I don't really see much point in doing an organ version of a harpsichord work without employing those advantages.

For those still interested in the Legace, it is available alone as a single disc or part of a large box of the complete Bach organ works along with organ performances of the Well Tempered Clavier and a few other non-organ compositions. For my part, it would be fine to hear this Goldbergs again in the future, but I also wouldn't mind if that didn't happen. Overall, only recommended to avid organ enthusiasts.

 

Feedback to the Review

Mitch Friefeld wrote (November 29, 2007):
Have the Goldbergs been recorded on any other non-traditional instruments? When I say "non-traditional," I'm thinking of anything other than harpsichord, fortepiano, and modern piano.

Deryk Barker wrote (November 30, 2007):
Mitch Friedfeld wrote:
< Have the Goldbergs been recorded on any other non-traditional instruments? When I say "non-traditional," I'm thinking of anything other than harpsichord, fortepiano, and modern piano. >
There are certainly recordings of versions for one and two guitars.

I don't recall the details of either, although I have the solo guitar one somewhere. It's very effective and well played, by the arranger.

The two guitar version OTOH redefined vapid for me.

Scott Morrison wrote (November 30, 2007):
Mitch Friedfeld asks:
< Have the Goldbergs been recorded on any other non-traditional instruments? When I say "non-traditional," I'm thinking of anything other than harpsichord, fortepiano, and modern piano. >
Just off the top of my head I know of recordings for string trio, for string orchestra, for claviorganum, and for an odd melange of instruments in an arrangement by Uri Caine. There are several recordings of a couple of different arrangements for two pianos. And there is a previous recording on organ played by Jean Guillou.

Finally, there is Robin Holloway's brilliant rewriting of the Goldbergs, for two pianos, that he call 'Gilded Goldbergs.'

Donald Satz wrote (November 30, 2007):
Mitch Friedfeld asks:
< Have the Goldbergs been recorded on any other non-traditional instruments? >
I'm familiar with an arrangement for accordian performed by Mika Vayrynen on the Alba label. It's a fine version that's tasteful and satisfying.

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 11, 2007):
Mitch Friedfeld asked:
< Have the Goldbergs been recorded on any other non-traditional instruments When I say "non-traditional," I'm thinking of anything other than harpsichord, fortepiano, and modern piano. >
The Bach Cantatas Website includes a comprehensive discography of Goldberg Variations BWV 988. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/NVD/BWV988.htm

Among the 342 different recordings of the GV, you can find not only piano, harpsichord, clavichord, or fortepiano, but also:

Other keyboard instruments: double-keyboard piano (G. Johansen), synthesizer (J. Spiegelman, S. Miyao), organ (J. Guillou, K. van Tricht, B. Lagace, F. Volke, A. Bezuijen, F. Bravo, M. Curlee, H. Banton, T. Mechler, E.
Feller, C. Ennis, T. Weiser, J. Sonnentheil, H. Alberchet), 2 pianos (arranged by Rheinberger & Reger, and by R. Holloway; several renditions), 2 cimbaloms (Szakaly & Farkas).

Other instruments: guitar (L. Harting-Ware, K. Rodarmar, J. Eotovos), lute (G. Toth), arrangements for duo-guitars (Ohlsen & Oldenburg), accordion (S. Hussomg, O. Farmen, R. Larsen, W. Dimetrik, M. Vayrynen).

Ensembles: string trio (arranged by Sitkovsky, several renditions), string orchestra, rock guitar (J. Akkerman), brass ensemble (Canadian Brass), chamber ensemble (B. Labadie. B. Hudson, A. Duczmal, Ensemble Resonanz, M. Bitsch), handbells ensemble (Chamber Ringing Soloists), Baroque ensemble (Parnassi Musici), flute, viola & cello trio (V. Kraneis +), saxophone quartet (Danish Saxophone Quartet, F. Schuessler +), woodwind ensemble (Homecoming Woodwind Ensemble).

Jazz improvisation (J. Lewis, U. Cain, J. Loussier).

Mitch Friefeld wrote (December 16, 2007):
Aryeh Oron provided many alternative-instrument versions of the Goldbergs, including one by the Canadian Brass. Thank you for that! This makes two Goldberg incidents in recent days:

1. A couple of months ago we saw Murray Perahia in a program of Bach (a partita, not the Goldbergs), Beethoven, and Chopin. My wife really likes Perahia, so I figured I would buy her MP's (BWV 244) recording of the Goldbergs and we'd both be happy. It came the other day. Her immediate response was: "Hmm, I already have that. In fact, you bought it for me." Oh. Well, now we both have one.

2. My son plays the trumpet in the University of Virginia marching band and the university's Rotunda Brass Quartet. And he is a big Canadian Brass fan. So I that disc. For him. Kind of. I'm hoping he'll
at least let me burn it for my own use.

Thanks again, Aryeh.

Mitch Friefeld wrote (December 27, 2007):
A couple of weeks ago I noted that I had bought the Canadian Brass's performance of the Goldbergs. Nice, nice stuff, almost organ-like in richness. I heard these guys do a movement from a Shostakovich string quartet a some years ago; they can do anything, it seems.

To the list of alternative-instrument Goldbergs we can now add a version for unorthodox woodwind ensemble. Instead of a group made up of flute, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon, the Homecoming Woodwind Ensemble arrays two oboes, cor anglais, and bassoon. Their Goldberg disc, Quartz 2051, gets four stars for both performance and sound in the December issue of the BBC Music Magazine. "It is superbly played by its original performers, in a lively and sympathetic acoustic, and there is much to admire in the artistry of these four players. But -- though some sections (such as Variation 25) do gain an added plangency -- I didn't feel that anything startling was achieved through putting the music into this new dress. Granted that it's a useful addition to the woodwind repertoire, it's difficult to see who its intended audience might be."

 

Goldberg Variations BWV 988: Details
Recordings:
Until 1950 | 1951-1960 | 1961-1970 | 1971-1980 | 1981-1990 | 1991-2000 | From 2001
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 - R. Egarr [Lehman] | GV - R. Egarr [Satz] | GV - R. Egarr [Bright] | 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 - 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 | Quodlibet in GV | GV for Strings
Discussions of Individual Recordings:
GV - D..Barenboim | GV - P.J. Belder | GV - E. Dershavina | 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 [by Thomas Braatz]

Bernard Lagacé: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works | Recordings of Vocal Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
An Organ Version of Bach's Goldberg Variations

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Last update: ýJanuary 29, 2008 ý10:19:19