Bach: Goldberg Variations

Bach: Goldberg Variations

by András Schiff
     
 
Glenn Gould's 1955 recording of the Goldberg Variations set the gold standard for interpreting Bach's extraordinary cycle on the piano -- until Murray Perahia came along with his astonishing 2000 release, that is, and amazed Bach lovers with his transcendent playing. András Schiff's Bach credentials

Overview

Glenn Gould's 1955 recording of the Goldberg Variations set the gold standard for interpreting Bach's extraordinary cycle on the piano -- until Murray Perahia came along with his astonishing 2000 release, that is, and amazed Bach lovers with his transcendent playing. András Schiff's Bach credentials are also well known, and his Goldbergs, which seem closer in spirit to Gould's than Perahia's, deserve a great amount of praise as well. Schiff recorded the Goldbergs once before on a well-received Decca release, and listening to this newer version, a live recording on ECM, it's easy to understand his desire to set them down on disc once again. As one would expect with this pianist, his playing is crisp and dexterous, his touch nimble and astonishingly assured, and he conveys all the liveliness and transparency of Gould, but without the distracting eccentricities. Observing all repeats, Schiff gives the music an attractive rhythmic bounce in the faster numbers, aided by some nicely pointed articulations and glisteningly clean ornamentation (check out Variation 1, for example), though he also captures the somber introspection of Variation 25, the Goldbergs' expressive highpoint. In that piece, as in the cycle as a whole, his tempo is a touch faster than Perahia's, and while Perahia's more subtle dynamic shading and greater poetic license in stretching the beat reveals perhaps a more sensitive soul at work, Schiff's unsentimental approach and ringing, bell-like tone will win over many listeners. Schiff divides his Goldbergs into groups, flowing most variations one into the next but pausing after some to offset the beginning of a new section. In the booklet, he offers a window into his thinking by providing a running commentary, variation by variation -- a guided tour of the Goldbergs. It's as compelling an interpretation as any, and the close-up recording (in contrast to Perahia's, which is more spacious) captures Schiff's brilliant playing, as always with ECM, with great presence and clarity.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Leonard
Who needs another recording of Bach's "Goldberg Variations"? After all, there have been so many great recordings of the work already -- Landowska, Kempff, Gould, Pinnock, and Leonhardt, to name a few -- that surely no one needs another recording of the "Goldberg." Actually, everyone needs another recording of the "Goldbergs" provided that it's a recording of a great performance. There's too much in the "Goldberg" -- too much brilliance, too much sorrow, too much humor, too much spirituality -- for any one performance, even the best performance, to contain all of it. So long as the performance honors the work's honesty, integrity, and virtuosity, there's always room for another "Goldberg" on the shelf. This 2001 recording by Andras Schiff belongs on any shelf of great "Goldbergs." Schiff has everything it takes -- the virtuosity; the integrity; and most importantly, the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual honesty -- to turn in a great "Goldberg." Indeed, Schiff has already done so in his 1982 Decca recording of the work, a lucid and pellucid performance of tremendous beauty and depth. But as good as the 1982 recording was, the 2001 recording is better. It preserves the great qualities of the earlier recording and adds greater depths, and what's even better, higher heights. Schiff seems to have gone further into the work and returned with greater insights and even greater beauty of tone. Part of this is due to ECM's stunningly clear and immediate recording, but more of it is due to Schiff's maturity as a performer. In 1982, he was not yet 30, and for all his brilliance as a pianist, he was still too young for the "Goldberg." But at almost 50, Schiff has grown in wisdom and his performance now rivals the greatest performances of the past.
Gramophone - Rob Cowan
Whatever your likes or dislikes in the Goldbergs, Schiff will surely elicit a positive reaction.... Schiff is the master colorist who...achieves impressive continuity between variations.
BBC Music Magazine - Jed Distler
Schiff's seasoned mastery enables him to execute on the piano anything his inquiring mind conceives. And that's saying a lot.
New Zealand Herald - William Dart
This is a fine recording Goldberg enthusiasts will not want to be without, as well as being the perfect introduction for the uninitiated.

Product Details

Release Date:
09/30/2003
Label:
Ecm Records
UPC:
0028947218524
catalogNumber:
000106302
Rank:
48932

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Goldberg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier-Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9)  - Johann Sebastian Bach  - Manfred Eicher  - Jan Jedlicka  - Vikram Seth

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