- Goldberg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier-Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9)
Bach: Goldberg Variationsby Fretwork
Arrangements of Bach's "Goldberg Variations, BWV 988," have become commonplace. One can object to the trend on the basis that this giant piece among all Bach's works is among the most closely tied to a specific instrument. But Fretwork arranger and leader Richard Boothby makes the point in his booklet notes here that even Glenn Gould's landmark 1950s recording of the work was an arrangement: the original "Goldberg Variations" were written explicitly for a two-manual harpsichord that could produce the same note in contrasting timbres. The present album does not even represent the first version for strings or even for viols, and the sober, even attack of the viols is preferable to the more common string trio arrangement by Dmitry Sitkovetsky. All this said, Boothby's arrangement here, for a consort of six viols, is 1) a radical reinterpretation of the work, and 2) striking and compelling as long as you're aware that you're getting a "meta" version of the "Goldberg Variations," one that clarifies and interprets them. The most obvious effect of Fretwork's version is that the variations -- both in the canons and elsewhere -- become a lot more polyphonic. The canons come out less as technical interludes and more as intensifications of the texture, and even in non-canonic movements there is a greater equality of the voices than usual. In variations that truly won't work polyphonically, Boothby uses pizzicato effects and other devices to set off a melody, which is an odd thing to hear on viols in itself. This is a reading that really gets into the inner workings of the "Goldberg Variations," and it's beautifully recorded. How you'll feel about it depends partly on the degree of speculative orientation in your musical makeup, but it's undoubtedly one of the most arresting of the "Goldberg" arrangements.
- Release Date:
- Harmonia Mundi Fr.
Performance CreditsFretwork Primary Artist
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