Sergio Fiorentino plays Bach’s Partita #1.
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.”
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
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.
Martha Argerich and friends play the Bach concertos with the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne: live stream from Paris tonight.
Missed the show tonight, but it’ll be available as video-on-demand tomorrow.
- Nicholas Angelich, piano
- Martha Argerich, piano
- Frank Braley, piano
- David Fray, piano
- Nelson Goerner, piano
- Dong-Hyek Lim, piano
- Gabriela Montero, piano
- Akane Sakai, piano
- Mauricio Vallina, piano
- Lilya Zilberstein, piano
Jeremy Denk - Bach’s Goldberg Variations: Streams and Eddies
I love how he just shares his insights as he goes. It’s like a window into the brain of a great musician.
This falls into a bizzarro subcategory of Bach’s output: “Keyboard arrangements of concerti by other composers.” So it’s Marcello’s Oboe Concerto arranged for keyboard by Bach. Who knew?
Anne Queffelec plays the Adagio here with a beautiful singing tone.
Alessandro Marcello - J.S. Bach - Piano: Anne Queffélec - Auszug BWV 974
Bach Prelude in C minor, BWV 847
Anybody have any theories as to why my Henle edition shows a tempo marking of “Presto” in measure 28, when no such marking is in the manuscript?
Jeremy Denk’s new recording of the Goldberg Variations is available for your streaming pleasure over at NPR.
champswa asked: My advice on the Bach Prelude is to play it staccato, à la Glenn Gould, if only for the technical reward of having an exercise like this.
Thanks champswa, I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m feeling like there’s just a couple of wrist motions that once I figure out exactly how to choreograph the whole thing will fall into place. Optimist?