- Goldberg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier-Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9)
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Many concepts have been applied to the playing of Bach's "Goldberg Variations, BWV 988," on the piano rather than the harpsichord for which it was originally composed. There are readings that attempt to restrict the piano's dynamic ambit to keep it close to that of a harpsichord, those that go full-on Romantic, and monumental takes that recognize the sheer unprecedented scope of the work. Fewer, though, are those that recognize the original story of the work's origin, recounted by Bach's early biographer Forkel: a Russian ambassador in Saxony, named Kaiserling, had trouble sleeping and prevailed upon a young pianist named Goldberg to serenade him to the land of dreams with a harpsichord, asking Bach to compose something for these sessions. The tale has been widely disbelieved, but there is no reason to suppose that quiet, intimate "Goldberg Variations" are any less valid than an epic one. That's what's here from German pianist Lars Vogt, who manages the neat trick of delivering a truly pianistic interpretation without turning it into a Romantic one. He does so by keeping the volume low throughout and by reining in the temptation to make the big minor-key variations at the middle and end into anguished dissonant cries. Instead they are moderate in tempo and quietly dreamy, to delightful effect, and one might indeed imagine the insomniac Russian count drifting off to them. In general Vogt's treatment is straightforward, with nothing brought so far to the fore that it would interfere with the considerable contrapuntal detail that emerges naturally from the individual variations. With excellent engineering from Ondine, working in the Deutschlandfunk Chamber Music Studio in Cologne, this is a highly recommended tonic to grandiose "Goldberg Variations" played on whatever instruments.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Wonderful and satisfying interpretation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations Taking on the task of performing, let alone recording, this set of 30 variations on what initially seems like such a simple melody, is most certainly not a task for the timid. And being open to new interpretations after being repeatedly awestruck by Glenn Gould’s famous performance and the more recent work of Jeremy Denk was very difficult for me. With this recording, I resolved to listen to it several times before truly forming an opinion, and I am pleased to say that I *really* like Mr. Vogt’s sensitive and organic feeling work very much. It goes without saying that that the virtuoso requirements of the work are extreme indeed, and I feel that to be the case particularly in the slower and softer sections, where the slightest passing of a note too quickly or the holding of a sonority just that instant too long would be noticeable in the extreme. But herein, Mr. Vogt lets Bach’s sonic landscape speak for itself, absorbing into the heart and the head in a the unique way that only Bach achieves this way. It is clear that Lars Vogt not only cares about bringing this unique music to life, but that he respects it and the composer as well in a very special and reverent way. And you can hear that in the performance. The liner notes consist of a several page interview with Mr. Vogt, and it is educational and enjoyable reading indeed. The quality of the recording is excellent, and while nothing can replace the experience of seeing this music performed in person, this CD is a treat. Very highly recommended!