Sergio Fiorentino plays Bach’s Partita #1.
"There has been much press hooh-hah about a bowed keyboard instrument imagined by Leonardo da Vinci and built by an enterprising Pole. But does it pass the acid test of musicology? Apparently not. Here’s a response to the American Musicological Society Discussion List from Professor Edmond Johnson in Los Angeles. Sorry, folks."
Link to Norman Lebrecht’s blog.
"The pianist Bernard Roberts, highly regarded for his impeccable performances of classical and romantic repertoire, has died at the age of 80. His cycle of Beethoven sonatas, recorded in the mid-1980s, was the first on CD and repeatedly attracted critics’ plaudits for its clarity of tone and firmness of articulation; innocent of exaggerated gestures or idiosyncrasy, his playing was admired not least for its unaffected quality. … he recorded movements complete, "direct to disc", without any retakes or edits."
Mazzoleni Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto
Jeremy Denk on why people love the Goldbergs: “There are so many reasons. But the [main] theme itself is one of those miracles. One of the characteristics of the theme that I find most affecting is in the way, in the last quatrain of it, it does something that has not happened in the theme before. It begins to move and elide over the bars in a way that it never had before and the melody takes off in this beautiful flurry of 16th notes. And only at that moment, at the end, when the 16th notes reach the most beautiful place, then the theme is over. There’s something about that confluence of the attainment and the relinquishing of the idea at the same time. I think people really get moved by it and it’s something very true to life, also.”
Alfred Brendel writing about his teacher, Edwin Fischer
In fact, the Goldberg Variations have caused me more misery than any other piece of music in history … How many hours have I spent backstage fretting, knowing that there will be several insufferable know-it-alls in the audience, with their 700 recordings and deeply considered opinions? How many hours have I spent practising those passages where the two hands climb over each other, then turn around (as if revisiting the site of an accident) and head for each other again?
Jeremy Denk in the Guardian
“"It’s got a swing to it, but it swings in a slightly sinister way," Lewis says. "There’s a feeling of something about to explode beneath the surface … And it certainly does in the middle section, which is one of the most bizarre and anarchic explosions in all of music. And you end up, toward the end of that section, with these very abrupt fortissimo chords followed by silence. And to me, that feels like you’re having your worst nightmare — and you sit bolt upright in bed and open your eyes. And you wake up from it, but then you realize that, actually, the nightmare is reality."
First half, Goldberg Variations.
As it dawns on me that he’s going to play all the repeats, I feel vaguely uneasy, but in fact I never once felt bored. His ornamentation in the repeats was playful and always illuminated the structure. Then his stroke of genius: when he played the return of the Aria at the end, he strips away bits of ornamentation in the repeats, leaving just the melody to make its ultimate impact. Worked brilliantly.
The Beethoven Diabelli Variations in the last half.
Schiff sounded like a different pianist here. Where the Bach was all about illuminating structure, in the Beethoven his musical choices all amplified the drama, weird humour or emotional connections of the Diabelli’s. Amazing use of the soft pedal to really play up dynamic contrasts.
Finally, as an encore, the variations from Beethoven’s last sonata, Op. 111.
This is a piece of music that I have to be honest, I’ve always had trouble connecting to. That weird jazzy variation in the middle is so odd. But Schiff somehow delivered it in a way that it finally clicked for me. This was truly transcendent music. The tone of the piano in places was so magical. I caught myself not breathing multiple times. I was in the palm of his hand through the whole movement. Great great concert.
So say you’re Andras Schiff and you’ve just held the audience in the palm of your hand for the better part of three hours in a concert of the Goldberg variations AND the Diabelli variations. With all the repeats. It’s magic. The concert ends and what do you play as an encore?
Only one thing will do: the variations from op 111 of course! As an encore!
He’s playing this same program at Carnegie Hall this week. If you can get tickets, go!