THE ART OF INSTRUMENTATION: HOMAGE TO GLENN GOULD • Gidon Kremer, (vn, cond); Kremerata Baltica • NONESUCH 528982 (58:52)
SILVESTROV Dedication to J.S. B. for violin and “echo sound.” BACH Aria from Goldberg Variations: for violin, vibraphone and string orchestra (arr. Pel?cis); for violin, crotales, audiotape, and strings Read more class="ARIAL12">(arr. Kissine). Well-Tempered Clavier: Prelude and Fugues in d (arr. Raskatov); in a (arr. Serksnyte); in f? (arr. Poleva). Three Voice Invention in f (arr. Wustin). Cembalo Concerto in f: Adagio (arr. Vine). Partita No. 6: Sarabande (arr. Desyatnikov). KANCHELI Bridges to Bach. TICKMAYER After Gould: Goldberg Variations Nos. 30, 19, 4, 18, 22, and 26 and Intermezzi from Schoenberg’s Opp. 19, 47
This has to be one of the strangest discs ever to come to me for review, but I’m the one who ordered it because it just looked strange even in the catalog. Gidon Kremer and his performing group Kremerata Baltica have here symbiotically (and in a sense magically) intertwined a love of Bach with their admiration for Glenn Gould. To this end, there is even a tip of the cap to Arnold Schoenberg, another composer Gould loved but who was unloved by most of his audience.
Both of the first two pieces combine the violin with a vibraphone, but in different ways. Valentin Silvestrov’s piece fragments the themes from Bach, providing an “echo” to the violin on the vibes, while George Pel?cis’s arrangement of the Aria from the Goldberg Variations is a delicate but almost romantic reworking of the piece, in which the vibes are written into the fabric of the string orchestra. Alexander Raskatov’s prelude and fugue from the Well-Tempered Clavier, though also conceived for string orchestra, takes on a slightly aggressive and almost neoclassical approach, while Alexander Wustin’s Three Voice Invention in f fragments the music, assigning the three voices to the solo violin, solo flute (played by Dita Krenberga), and the string ensemble. The booklet claims that percussion is used in this piece, but throughout its three minute and 13-second duration I could not detect any percussion at all.
Carl Vine’s arrangement of the slow movement from the BWV 1056 Keyboard Concerto is, like Pel?csis’s work, as delicate as lace, using pizzicato in every range of the accompanying strings (and, at two points, a surprise ensemble glissando, the second one almost breaking out into an exuberant second theme that is squelched by the solo violin). Raminta Serksnyte’s arrangement of yet another prelude and fugue from WTC makes much of Bach’s unusual, and somewhat modern-sounding, falling chromatics, while Giya Kancheli’s original composition, Bridges to Bach, is fanciful and abstract, using short themes from Bach works as leverage to explore shimmering timbral effects and light, floating moments, in which the solo violin, backed by what sounds like a single bass, is accompanied by the flute, piano, and/or vibes in turn.
Leonid Desyatnikov’s version of the Sarabande from the E-Minor Violin Partita slows the music down, partitions it to seven instruments (the solo violinist and two each violins, violas, and cellos), and so is able to “pass” the melody around them. One of the most atmospheric of all the arrangements in this set is Victoria Vita Poleva’s version of the F?-Minor prelude and fugue from WTC. Although a string orchestra is ostensibly used, only individual instruments are heard interacting with the solo violin; otherwise, the texture is dominated by the harpsichord along with marimba and vibes. This works particularly well in the fugue, where a single viola and cello interact with the other soloists to provide a particularly interesting voicing!
I have to say that I didn’t care for Stevan Tickmayer’s way of interweaving snippets of the Goldberg Variations with the Intermezzo from Schoenberg’s opp. 19 and 47, only because the latter seemed to be used more like “shock effect” interludes to the former. On the other hand, it does give one the feeling of how Gould’s musical mind may have worked, with themes of Bach and Schoenberg butting each other out of the picture at different times.
The CD ends with yet another arrangement of the aria from the Goldberg Variations, somewhat different from the first, and thus we come to the end of a fascinating excursion. A wonderful disc. Bravo, Gidon!