- Bist du bei mir, for voice & continuo
Pianist Daniel-Ben Pienaar came from South Africa and was largely trained there. Very well equipped technically, he has a gift for unorthodox interpretations that he seems to have thought out on his own and to have developed the technical tools to execute. His thoroughly pianistic version of Bach's "Goldberg Variations, BWV 988," will appeal to those who like Glenn Gould's versions, especially the earlier one. In the beginning, in fact, Pienaar seems to be offering a sort of updated Gould reading, without the humming. His attack is percussive; his tempos are pushed toward extremes, especially in the faster variations; his sensuous pleasure in Bach's collisions of spectacular figuration and harmonic mastery is palpable. As the performance proceeds, it enters more and more into new territory. Pienaar has some odd ideas. He plays many of the variations with only a very slight pause between them, but with the slow ones he necessarily takes more time. This deemphasizes the internal structure of the variations -- canon, dance, virtuoso piece -- and connects them in short chains of Pienaar's own devising while still respecting the overall division into halves marked by the slow Variation 15. Considerable variations in tempo, with the last bars of slow variations extended, also break the flow. This is not all to the good, but at the local level there's no denying that Pienaar is extremely compelling. Sample the contrast between his extremely delicate treatment of the minuet-like Variation 19 and his intense, flashy Variation 20 (tracks 20 and 21). On balance, for those who find Gould's extreme subjectivity annoying, they probably won't like Pienaar, either, but for those interested in that territory, not much traversed, definitely give him a try.