Do we need another "Goldberg Variations"?

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Yes, I have that set and I've

Yes, I have that set and I've enjoyed the interview. The amazing thing is that Gould himself scripted the whole thing, questions and answers. What gould said is  that he was linking each variations according to related measures, so the "same" pulse would run through all of them, whereas his first version is a bunch of individual pieces. Whether that is something we, as listeners, perceive or not is still to be seen.

 

 

 

janeeliotgardiner wrote:

janeeliotgardiner wrote:

 

 

 

I fear this is yet another case of Parla being caught out. Anyone who knows the Goldbergs well understands the need to take repeats into account when comparing timings...........Rather a schoolboy error, in his case.

 

 

 

And every one a gem.

 

Repeats or not; Koroliov and more.

Camaron, some clarifications and comments to the points you raised in your post #28:

- Koroliov performs all the repeats once and avoids the repeat of the Aria da capo. Thus, the two slow minor Variations 15 and 25 (at 5:43 and 11:09) are much slower than most of the pianists and harpsichordists at least I know and definitely much slower than Leonhardt's 4:22 (with no repeat). Of course, Koroliov is swifter in some fast Variations, like in the third in minor (no.5, at 1:14 with repeat versus 1:01 of Leonhardt).

- The very fine Harpsichordist Jory Vinicour, in his recording on Delos, observes the repeats in all the Variations, including the final Aria da capo, reaching a total playing time 85:39. Again the two slow minor Variations are quite slow at 6:10 and 10:16 (one repeat only).

- Zhu Xiao-Mei's in her second recording on Accentus, observes all the repeats except the Aria da capo, but she is faster in general terms (total time at 76:24), the Adagio Var. 25 at 7:59.

- Pozzi's might have more repeats in some Variations (he already admits that he intervenes in the three minor ones), but structurally at least he chose the Overture and the Quodlibet as the two key points of the work, the midpoint and the ending before the final repetition of the Aria.

- The issue of the repeats is complex to the extent that it can be also...confusing. The initial view of almost any pianist, scholar and musician/friend I know is that they have to be observed all of them, since, after all, that's how the work it is written. Of course, there is the opposite view that none can be performed (Gould, Leonhardt for example). Both views at least share the common value of consistency. However, depending on the audiences, practices and strong convictions of various soloists, scholars etc. have lead notable performers to include or omit repeats and, sometimes, even to intervene in them with embelishments, modifications (Tureck has done enough in her Harpsichord recording) and so on. Therefore, one has to be open to the whims or whatever views and convictions of the time soloists have and decide what repeats to include and how to perform them. As a purist, I prefer the performances and recordings with all the repeats, but with enough performers of the various and different qualities, one has to be more receptive.

Parla

I'm not actually sure you

I'm not actually sure you have fully understood what we are trying to point out Parla.

 

"In the pivotal slow Variation 25 (Adagio), Leonhardt reaches 4:22, while Koroliov goes to...11:09. Likewise, in Variation 15 (Canone alla Quinta), Leonhardt is at 2:39, while Koroliov goes up to 5:43! Of course, in some faster Variations, he is swifter than Leonhardt."

 

Since you confirm that Koroliov plays all repeats other than the aria da capo, then what you need to compare is 4:22 with 5:30 and 2:39 with 2:41 aprox.  Whatever conclusions you, or others, what to extract from THOSE figures I'll leave to you. From memory (I could be wrong, cant check just now) Gould, in his ultra fast 55 recording, takes about 6 minutes for the Black Pearl, no repeats. There are bound to be anomalities like that in any interpretation of 32 pieces which have, mostly, no tempo indication: the odd slow piece in a fast interpretation (Gould) or the odd fast piece in a slow interpretation (Leonhardt).

 

Anyway, I just wanted to clarify this.

About being sure...

I'm not actually sure what you have understood either, Camaron, from what I have stated so far.

I don't know what figures you compare. The 4:22 for the Var. 25 is versus 11:09, which means that even with the repeat, Koroliov is slower than Leonhardt (4:22x2=8:44), while the Var.15 is 2:39 versus 5:43 (still a bit slower: 5:18 versus 5:43). With Vinikour, the 15 is even slower (6:10).

As for the "anomalies" (I would call them irregularities), I can agree with you there are quite a few in every recording for various reasons apart from those you mentioned in your above post.

Parla

 

parla wrote:

parla wrote:

I'm not actually sure what you have understood either, Camaron, from what I have stated so far.

I don't know what figures you compare. The 4:22 for the Var. 25 is versus 11:09, which means that even with the repeat, Koroliov is slower than Leonhardt (4:22x2=8:44), while the Var.15 is 2:39 versus 5:43 (still a bit slower: 5:18 versus 5:43). With Vinikour, the 15 is even slower (6:10).

As for the "anomalies" (I would call them irregularities), I can agree with you there are quite a few in every recording for various reasons apart from those you mentioned in your above post.

Parla

 

 

I guess you think the oistrich head-hiding strategy works for you parla. I just wanted to clarify things for unaware people, to whom you were giving misleading information based, it seems, on poor understanding. Job done i hope. I'll let you have the last word now!

Chris,

Chris,

I know you must feel VERY tempted to jump in. It is Bach, it is the Goldberg, surely you have lots to say and want to say it. Just walk in! I dont mind if i have to stand corrected in some of my statements. It will be a pleasure!

Too many Goldbergs.

Too many Goldbergs.

 

OK Camaron. Just for you!

 

Well certainly there are too many for anyone to really get to know. If you search for Goldberg Variations on the Presto Classical website it comes to 281 entries - however every fifth or sixth one seems to be another incarnation of one or other of Gould’s traversals, or travesties, depending on your point of view. The 1955 version was ecstatically reviewed in Gramophone in January 1958 on its first UK release, and slammed savagely in November 1969 on its reissue (you can read these reviews in the Archive).

I suppose I know half a dozen recordings fairly well but I’d be hard pressed to guarantee that I could enumerate the repeats taken or omitted in any of those recordings that have not taken either of the easy options - all or none.  I guess Parla (and most people) take the timings from the CD information, and probably information on repeats taken too.  This latter may be a mistake: quite a few sleeve notes I’ve read reveal that the writer has not actually had the opportunity to hear the performance as recorded. On the other hand I doubt if anyone has listened through all the recorded versions with a score and a stopwatch before commenting on tempi.  In any case what does the absolute timing mean.  It’s what the tempo seems like that counts, isn’t it, so many things contribute to that feeling, and I suspect that, for example, some of the slower variations can be successfully played on the piano more slowly than is possible on the harpsichord.

 

Even the listener is fickle though, or at least this one is.  To my ears, Tureck’s tempi are definitely slower now than they were a couple of years ago, whatever the stop watch says!

 

Should repeats be taken or not?  All or none are the easy options.  Insistence on taking every available repeat seems to be the fashion through and through these days (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert etc.).  I can’t help but think there is a kind of intellectual laziness in this approach, along with the obsession with recording ‘complete’ everything. On the other hand, taking no repeats in the Goldbergs seems sometimes just too terse. I guess many people would choose a middle ground: the problem though is, with so many possibilities probably no two people would make the same choices.

 

One consideration if repeats are taken must be how to play the second time round.  Differences in dynamics, phrasing,ornamentation possibly, but for repeated listening too much ornamentation, however nice it sounds on first hearing, may pall on later acquaintance.  

 

This problem of repeated hearings is a peculiarly gramophonic one. Perhaps in the age of streaming we may come to think differently.  Instead of listening to a handful of versions we have on discs many times over, we can go back and replicate the experience of concert performances - there are enough recordings of the Goldberg Variations available to stream that perhaps there is no need ever to listen to any one performance twice, just like in the old days!

 

A final thought about tempi and repeats. Perhaps we take all this too seriously. It seems that Bach’s employer had a particular purpose in mind for these variations.  The player would need to guess how long it would take his employer to fall asleep - more than 45 minutes and it would be safer to take some repeats, or go more slowly.

 

Perhaps I should not have returned!

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

Much, much appreciated Chris,

Much, much appreciated Chris, that is exactly the sort of stuff I miss....

“I’d be hard pressed to guarantee that I could enumerate the repeats taken or omitted in any of those recordings that have not taken either of the easy options - all or none”

Indeed, same here.

“It’s what the tempo seems like that counts”.

Yes, and this seems independent of duration… to an extent. It is what Jane said, and I share the feeling (I think most people do….), that the first of Goulds’ recording feels much faster than the second, even if it is not. That takes us to the value of repeats, since I believe that much of this perception of the second recording as slower is due to this periodic repeats of the canons, which give that little bit of time to breath….

So “Should repeats be taken or not?  All or none are the easy options.  Insistence on taking every available repeat seems to be the fashion through and through these days (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert etc.).  I can’t help but think there is a kind of intellectual laziness in this approach, along with the obsession with recording ‘complete’ everything.

Yes, intellectual laziness and dogmatic prejudice, related to this sort of fear of leaving something out. I also think that it really shows lack awareness of the times/world we live in: repeats have always had a “familiarity” value, they have been a mnemotechnic trick to help along with music that more often than not you would listen only once. Or very few times in best of cases. That goes also for the sonata form, later on. Brahms said as much, and stopped playing repeats once he reckoned the music was known enough by the public. But today we play over and over again the same music, thanks to recording/storage technologies.

But it is possibly more complicated than that, and a creative use of repeats can be argued on artistic grounds (not on authenticity grounds….). It is remarkable how those few repeats in Goud’s second recording change the feeling of the whole piece….

“Perhaps I should not have returned!”

Too late….

Thinking of it, I think there

Thinking of it, I think there is another reason why Gould’s first recording feels faster: because the quality of the sound is so much worse in this one. The main reason why I always go back to the second one is because you can hear all the notes in their flow so clearly. The quality of the recording is phenomenal and goes beautifully along with Gould’s surgeon-like way of playing.

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