Do we need another "Goldberg Variations"?

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camaron wrote:

camaron wrote:

With regard to repeats, he’s [Kempff] inconsistent but most usually takes only the first-half repeats, something considered ‘inexcusable’ in the Gramophone’s first review (February 1971)”

Now, that’s interesting. I commented before that, to me, that is a very obvious approach to repeats, but wasn’t aware of any recording that did it this way. “Inexcusable”??!!! Why? It just makes so much sense. With that solution you sort of get the best of both worlds. Second halves are thematically related to first, so repeating the first half is more than enough for familiarity’s sake. But most importantly you can keep the momentum going. To me there is something wrong about finishing something twice. I think there is much of this perception behind the reason why even today, a fidelity obsessed era, repeats for development/recap of many sonata forms from the Classic periods are not respected.

 

I completely agree with you. It seems to me an eminently balanced solution for the Goldbergs. Elsewhere also I mostly agree. My pet hate is performances of Mozart Symphony No.39 with the second half of the last movement repeated.  Mozart's joke of coming suddenly to the end without a conclusion, surely shouldn't be repeated. It's like telling the same joke twice!

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

A curious appendix.

A curious appendix.

I knw that advertisers exploit one's internet use to direct advertising appropriately, but I was amazed when barely an hour after I'd mentioned Gould's Goldbergs to you yesterday, I found Amazon's advertisement for his complete Bach staring at me! No Tureck or Leonhardt so far though!

Chris A.Gnostic

c hris johnson wrote:

c hris johnson wrote:

A curious appendix.

I knw that advertisers exploit one's internet use to direct advertising appropriately, but I was amazed when barely an hour after I'd mentioned Gould's Goldbergs to you yesterday, I found Amazon's advertisement for his complete Bach staring at me! No Tureck or Leonhardt so far though!

Scary. Is that because they know you already have them both?

Notable recordings.

Apart from the recordings you mentioned, Chris, from a rather broad selection of various recordings of this so many times recorded masterwork, I selected some that are somehow overlooked or forgotten beyond the usual suspects of Goulds and Turecks on the modern Piano or Leonhardt on the Harpsichord.

Some of the more known recordings, on the modern Piano, that should be heard, if not further explored, are the one of the noble Perahia (Sony) and at least one of the meticulous and warm Schiff's (Decca and ECM). From the somehow overlooked but still great pianists, Koroliov (on Hanssler, now on Piano Classics) and Sokolov (on Melodiya from a live performance of 1982) are superb and profound in their own ways. In the same vein, at least one of Nikolayeva's recording is a wonderful experience (the Hyperion recording is very well recorded and produced). Gavrilov's reading, on DG, at a time was a very substantive recording. By the time, himself and his art got away, but this one is  one of his best achievements on record. Zhu Xiao-Mei is perhaps the only major Asian pianist who has managed to leave a mark in performing most of Bach's output. Her second recording on Accentus is gloriously produced with a very fine recording, allowing her Art to shine throughout.

From the even less known pianists, the German Ragna Schirmer, in her Berlin recording, is quite interesting, while the very fine but only now somehow recognised Ekaterina Dershavina provides a very fascinating account of the work, when she was only 28 years old, on the defunct now Arte Nova.

All the above are with repeats, with Schirmer reaching 87, Sokolov 86, Koroliov 85 and Nikolayeva 82 min.

As for the Harpsichord, apart from Jory Vinikour, in his very fine and very well recorded recording on Delos reaching the 86 min. with all the repeats (incl. the Aria da capo), I could add the following:

The always solid Staier on H.M., at least one of the very good and seasoned Schornsheim (both on Capriccio with 25 years difference!), Hantai (on the already gone Opus 111), Celine Frisch on Alpha, the glorious Blandine Verlet on the already gone Astree, and, from the Asian side, Mayako Sone is amazingly fine, in a extremely detailed and lively SACD recording, on Avex. All the above observe the repeats, with some exceptions (no repeats of the slow Variations in some cases or the Aria da capo or both).

Finally, on the Organ, there is a recent quite intriguing recording (in great SACD sound, on Exton) with the more known as cellist but also organist Alexander Kniazev. With the broad sonic space of the glorious instrument, he streches the limits of the work reaching a performance (with repeats of course) of 101 minutes! The Variation 25 reaches the 13:04, Variation 15 6:41, Variation 13 7:00 and the Aria da capo 6:34!

I guess is enough for now. Some other time, we may discuss about the interesting enough String Trio arrangement recordings (there are plenty and some worth the try).

Parla

On a side note. I imagine

On a side note. I imagine some of you listened to Building a Library yesterday, in BBC Radio3. I could only manage some of it. They chose Bach’s B Minor Mass. It would be nice to focus on this wonder one day…

camaron wrote:

camaron wrote:

On a side note. I imagine some of you listened to Building a Library yesterday, in BBC Radio3. I could only manage some of it. They chose Bach’s B Minor Mass. It would be nice to focus on this wonder one day…

Haven't listened yet. I am always a bit behind the live schedule. I will pick it up on podcast over the next few weeks. What a resource that is (if you are in the UK)..........This one, by Nicholas Kenyon, was apparently one of the really good ones.

Mass in B minor and Goldberg Variations

Yes, Kenyon on Bach is always worth hearing.  You don’t have to be in the UK either to hear the broadcast after the event. Following Camaron’s prompt I listened late last night.  Excellent discussion. The current obsession with one voice to a part very much in evidence of course, but it seems there is no interest in the sound of voices that Bach would have had in mind. One female soprano, one counter tenor and two basses (all professionals) make a completely different sound to boy sopranos and altos and young men tenors and basses.  We still await a recording with one to a part and boy singers.  Is it  even possible?

 

Anyway back to the Goldbergs.  Also last night I listened right through to Kempff’s recording.  I meant to just dip in but couldn’t resist even though it was late. Actually Kempff is quite logical with the repeats. He repeats both halves of all the canons, and the first half of all the other movements, except the aria, the french overture (surely you must repeat both parts or none in this), and the very slow and long adagio variation 25. Listening made me realise a problem we’ll have discussing the variations one by one: the best performances give a coherence to the whole that transcends the effectiveness of individual variations.  Kempff is very successful in binding the whole work together.  Perhaps not for you Jane: besides the Aria he is quite sparing with ornaments, especially the mordents.

Parla, thanks for your list and reminders.  I’ve heard the Perahia, noble indeed as you say, and Schiff, meticulous sometimes to the point of fussiness it seems to me. As it happens I’ve heard Schiff play the variations live twice, once in London and once in Copenhagen(!). Live it seemed to me to be more spontaneously successful than on either of his recordings. Nikolaeva I’ve not heard, but yes I should.  I’ve heard quite a few others not on your list. Old ones (on the harpsichord) including Karl Richter (an old German Decca LP), Walcha (rather dull), George Malcolm (very disapppointing) and Zuzana Ruzickova (Supraphon), very flamboyant.  I still have that LP. She seemed to have been completely forgotten until a recent flurry of reissues.  I suppose these are all to old for you Parla, but I was surprised you did not mention Mahan Esfahani’s recent recording.  I’ve been listening to that recently too. ‘Kaleidoscopic’ as one reviewer described it - any single variation fascinating, but overall I’m not sure. Does it hold together? I could never be a ‘first’ reviewer of recordings: it often takes me a while yo make up my mind.

Amongst the pianists you didn’t mention, what about Angela Hewitt.  I only know her first version, which I quite like. Perhaps less successful than her superb Art of Fugue though.

Finally, Charles Rosen's, which I’m waiting to arrive any day now. However my score has arrived, so perhaps tomorrow we can start the real study!

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

c hris johnson wrote:

c hris johnson wrote:

Perhaps not for you Jane: besides the Aria he is quite sparing with ornaments, especially the mordents.

I listened to the aria a long time ago (following your recommendation) and was utterly appalled. But that was only a first impression. I will have a proper listen soon. I have more than enough respect for Kempff to give him a second or a third listen. His Schubert is still the best overall set for me, and his Schumann is pretty close.......Oddly, given the consensus, I am a little less enamoured with his Beethoven, but again this is something I should probably go back to.

As to the quesiton of individual variations vs overall coherence etc, we might start with individual variations (looking especially at the music itself), after which we can look at the issue of overall coherence, which would necessarily tip the discussion towards actual performances.

The B Minor Mass. I’ve long

The B Minor Mass. I’ve long stopped being dogmatic in these matters and I just listen to what I like. For this mass I find myself going back to small scale versions, over and over again. One voice a part works fine for me, since I discovered Rifkin years ago. Minskovsky, 10 singers, or Herreweghe, small chorus.

In youtube there is a wonderful rendition by Savall and with Le Concert des Nations. Twice I played it and got hooked through to the end. But all this for another time….

The Goldberg. Yes, comparative listening of piece by piece would not work very well for the Goldbergs. This time I’m personally more interested to focus in the music itself although it is of course unavoidable to end up talking about different recordings.

I guess a good plan is, following Chris’ original idea, to start with the aria and follow with groups of three thereafter, the canon being the last one in the group. Unless anyone has a better idea?

More clarifications.

Chris, my list was titled "notable recordings", not the notable recordings. I tried to refer mostly to less known or overlooked, neglected, forgotten etc. recordings and performers.

From those you mentioned, I used to have some Ruzickova LPs and she was not only flamboyant; she was truly brilliant (I remember a most astonishing Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue and an exhilarating Italian Concerto on a Supraphon LP I used to have). Esfahani has not impressed me so far and his Goldberg (vis a vis to classic ones like Richter, Leonhardt, Verlet or solid seasoned ones like Staier, Rousset, Hantai etc.) looks like a Post Baroque performance. Of course, at least in UK, he is praised enough, but that does not surpsise me. In France or in Germany, they have their doubts about what he is up to.

As for Hewitt, I have mentioned her here previously. Her first recording, on a Steinway, sounds a bit odd (for her). In her second, on her own Fazioli, she is much more at home. She is good enough and refined but not thrilling or profound. Try Sokolov (one of the greatest pianists around) or Koroliov (another very individual talent) for example and you'll see the difference.

As for Bach's Mass in b minor, one with the very limited number of players and singers is the one on Channel Classics with the Netherlands Bach Society, conducted by Jos van Veldhoven. Apart for the five soloists (Concertists), the Ripienists are only 8 (two Soprani I and II, two Altos, two Tenors and two Bassi). The Orchestra is one soloist per part except for the First Violins (3) and the Second (2). It is a very fine performance in a most impressive (SACD) recording and a glorious production by this excellent Dutch label. The closest to one voice per part is Kuijken (the brilliant maverick), on Challenge Classics. Savall is very good indeed but with more "massive" forces, on Alia Vox.

Parla

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