Notes and Editorial Reviews
In 1741 Johann Sebastian Bach published the fourth and last volume of his most extensive keyboard publication, the Clavier-Übung: an aria and thirty variations known universally as the ‘Goldberg’ Variations. This monumental work, which is about eighty minutes long, is unquestionably one of the towering masterpieces of Western music. At times the ‘Goldberg’ Variations anticipate the keyboard writing of nearly a hundred years later. They present the performer with a great challenge, which Daniel Barenboim successfully addresses by using the piano to ‘orchestrate’ the music, creating the illusion of clearly defined instrumental sounds. Recorded at Bavaria Musikstudios Munich, 1992, Directed by Christopher Nupen. Produced by Metropolitan
Munich in association with Allegro Films.
Daniel Barenboim introduces the ‘Goldberg’ Variations (in English)
REGION CODE NTSC: 0
PICTURE FORMAT: NTSC 16:9
SOUND FORMATS: PCM-STEREO
BOOKLET: English, Deutsch, Français
DISC FORMAT: NTSC
NO OF DISCS: 1
RUN TIME: 90 mins (Concert), 10 mins (Bonus)
R E V I E W:
Daniel Baremboim (pn)
EUROARTS 2066778 (DVD: 88:00)
Daniel Barenboim is not chiefly known as a Bach performer. Indeed, he is, alas, no longer chiefly known as a pianist. Barenboim recorded the
s in Buenos Aires for Erato sometime in the (late?) 1980s, a recording that was generally positively received by Tom Moore (
13:6). This 1992 Munich studio performance has never, as far as I can determine, been available before, and he has not recorded the set since.
The performance is accompanied by a 10-minute introduction by Barenboim (included in the total timing above). Many such introductions are only so much waffle but, in this case, I recommend beginning by listening to what Barenboim has to say, not so much for any deep insights into the
, but for its clear introduction to how Barenboim approaches the piece. He sees the whole set as being in some sense “orchestral,” and says the piano can evoke the illusion of the various instruments. He first gives illustrations of the various ways of touch and tempo by which this piece has been approached on the piano, and then demonstrates what he means by suggesting orchestral instruments. Now, I have to say, I don’t really believe this thesis, but what is important is that it shows us how it creates for Barenboim an entrance into each of the parts of the whole set. What is also important for us to know is that he plays all the repeats, but he notes, rightly, I think, that each repeat should be varied so that it leads into the next section or variation.
It is fascinating to hear Barenboim vary his touch and attack. He is not afraid of being pianistic at moments, as in Variation 12, for instance, or in the “overture” that constitutes Variation 16, nor is he shy of an occasional change of volume during a section to make a point. He ties Variations 17 through 20, and 22 and 23, together to make larger units. Though he mostly keeps a relatively unexpressive face as he goes about his business, when he gets to Variations 29 and 30, there is a visual and acoustical sense of letting go in bringing things to a conclusion, rounded off by the iteration of the opening Aria.
The only issue to consider is if one wants to watch him play. The camerawork is discreet, only about five different camera positions, so there is no distraction from the music. I note as a technical tittle that the timings given on the box are not correct and are as I give them above. This is a most satisfying performance of the
s, regardless of instrument, and I commend it.
FANFARE: Alan Swanson
Works on This Recording
Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Daniel Barenboim (Piano)
Written: 1741-1742; Nuremberg, Germany
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