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Bach: Goldberg Variations / Murray Perahia

Release Date: 10/03/2000 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 89243   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Murray Perahia
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

I have no hesitation at all in acclaiming Murray Perahia's recording of the Goldberg Variations as the finest on piano since Glenn Gould's pioneering version of the 1950s. Both in its broad conception and individual details, it offers incontestable evidence of Perahia's penetrating musical intellect, sensitivity to emotional nuance, and exceptional technical gifts. A performance this rich and varied in expression deserves to be considered at much greater length than that of a simple record review, but perhaps a few general observations will suffice to indicate what an extraordinary listening experience this release represents.

First, the big picture: Perahia observes all the
Read more repeats, and his crisply detailed ornamentation the second time around is just one of many delights. The entire work takes a bit more than 73 minutes, which means that tempos run on the swift side. Indeed, if I had to choose one word to characterize this interpretation, it would be: "joyous". It swings. Unlike Rosalyn Tureck, for example, Perahia doesn't agonize over every note in a way that imposes on the work a portentous sameness from moment to moment, however fascinatingly considered the details. He's extremely careful to shape groups of variations to form expressive arches. The most impressive of these explores the gradual increase in tension from Variations 26 through 30. Note how Perahia uses the piano's dynamic range to give the 28th variation, with its long ornamental trills, an unusually quiet delicacy (on harpsichord this can sound like the sewing machine from hell), followed by a natural intensification through his bold treatment of the rapidly alternating chords of Variation 29, and culminating, with an effortless sense of climax, in the contrapuntal fullness of the ensuing Quodlibet. You might think this sort of thing obvious, but it's amazing how in many performances the final variation comes as an anti-climax after the devastating brilliance of the two previous ones. Not here!

The finer details fit naturally into this larger scheme. Perahia's isn't as obsessively linear a performance as Gould's, and even though he isn't quite as firmly focused on the bass line, he never sacrifices clarity for the sake of pianistic effect. On the other hand, he's perfectly willing to employ pianistic effect for the sake of enhancing clarity, both expressively and contrapuntally. The 23rd variation, for example, seems to foreshadow Prokofiev, its witty scales running up and down the keyboard, tossed off as a humorous series of hiccups and parentheses. In the following canon at the octave--difficult to project clearly owing to the sameness of the parts--Perahia magically conveys not just the identity of the variation as a canon, but also its pastoral character and lilting rhythm. The melody, too, has never before sounded so similar to Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring". Here's one of those rare moments that, when you hear it, sounds exactly right, and the softer volume at the repeats only enhances the music's intimacy and grace. Finally, when we reach the great 25th variation, one of the saddest pieces in all of Bach, the right hand takes center stage, singing this harmonically anguished, florid lament with a touchingly fluid legato. The left hand, in contrast, offers the most sensitive harmonic support, clearly subordinate in a manner all but impossible on the harpsichord.

Any random selection of variations will reveal similar interpretive insights, though you should not get the impression from this paean of pianistic praise (excuse the alliteration: too many Batman reruns lately) that I dislike the sound of this music on the harpsichord. On the contrary, I tend to prefer the way the older instrument lends the work sharper contours and a unique, steely brilliance. What makes Perahia so special, though, is his masterful application of the piano's tone colors and dynamic contrasts to Bach's music in a way that is at once personal and totally convincing. Artists as individually outstanding as Gould, Tureck, Koroliov, and Schiff have all found solutions that are equally valid, but none, I think, have ever made the music sound so naturally, joyously at home on the modern piano as has Perahia. With gorgeously rich recorded sound fully worthy of the interpretation, this Goldberg Variations easily joins my short list of recommendations on any instrument. Perahia has given us a recording for the ages, no doubt about it. [10/20/2000]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Murray Perahia (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1741-1742; Nuremberg, Germany 
Date of Recording: 07/2000 
Venue:  La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 
Length: 73 Minutes 28 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: Nuremberg, Germany (1741 - 1742). 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Superb July 27, 2014 By M. Johnson (Simi Valley, CA) See All My Reviews "There is no need to purchase any other recording. This recording is absolute perfection. Mr. Murray Perahia is in the moment. Truly, I say this is so good, and without any annoying humming. No regrets here. Bravo!" Report Abuse
 The best one . I like it the most May 12, 2012 By Reuven Holzer (Herzlia, Israel) See All My Reviews "I know another two performnces of this great Bach composition. The one from 1956 by Glen Gould and one by Rosalyn Tourek. I never heard the one by Anras Sheif, so I exclude it from this comparison (however, I heard a lot about this performance and plan to listen to it in the future). However, among the three mentioned earlier, I like it the most. This is a "streight forword" performance without trying any "personal" interpretations, as I believe this piece have to be performed. However, it is still a performance of one of the greatest pianists living today, so Murray Perahia still leaves a great personal stamp on it and it is his own elegance of playing and his accurate (much attention to small details) as he usually does. The bottom line - I recommand this performance in all my heart." Report Abuse
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