- Goldberg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier-Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9)
Jeremy Denk's revelatory recording of J.S. Bach's "Goldberg Variations" is a special treat, not only because of his penetrating exploration of this keyboard classic, but also for his insightful "liner notes," which are provided on a companion video DVD, rather than printed in a booklet. Denk is a versatile pianist, as well as an essayist, blogger, chemist, and recipient of the MacArthur Foundation "genius grant," and he has performed the "Goldberg Variations" many times in concert, devoting considerable thought and energy to this masterpiece over the years. Approaching the work from many angles, Denk's understanding of Bach's music is multifaceted, and he reveals the music's brilliance with the care of a jeweller. Playing with a generally bright tone, his touch is subtle and carefully considered, and his treatment of Bach's counterpoint is highly focused; each line is given its independence and transparence by clean execution, nuanced phrasing, and minimal use of the pedals. There's a kind of euphoria in his playing that isn't expressed in a rush of emotions or loud dynamics, but rather in the simple joy of playing cleanly and briskly, with each passage feeling intellectually coherent and emotionally honest. This is an invigorating performance, and it is highly recommended for Denk's clarity of vision and original interpretation.