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Bach: Goldberg Variations / Jeremy Denk


Release Date: 09/30/2013 
Label:  Nonesuch   Catalog #: 535452   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jeremy Denk
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Includes a companion DVD of video "liner notes," with Jeremy Denk demonstrating passages on the piano as he explains details of the piece.
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BACH Goldberg Variations Jeremy Denk (pn) NONESUCH 535452 (CD + DVD: 74:03 + 52:31)


Hot on the heels of Sophia Gilmson’s recording of the Goldberg Variations Read more comes yet another compact disc-DVD combination, this one by pianist Jeremey Denk. Gilmson included performances on both piano and harpsichord, each instrument of which offered up a rather different sort of interpretation. Denk’s version is restricted solely to the modern piano, and the Nonesuch blurb that accompanied the disc notes that it has been a staple for many years in his concert repertory. That is perhaps why he seems so familiar and comfortable with the work, the bane of many a pianist for its variety and technical difficulties. To be sure, he is playing off of the popularity of the variations begun so long ago by Glenn Gould, but this recording is every bit Gould’s equal or better. I like Denk’s interpretations, which nicely outline the many colors of these well-known movements. His Aria is thoughtful and serene, his final variation remarkably agile and precise, which is unusual since it is in and of itself a tour de force , an obstacle that many performers have yet to overcome successfully.


The recording comes with a DVD that alleges to be liner notes. That is as may be, but I found his personal takes on the variations illuminating and impressive for his sensitive stylistic knowledge. It is not just how to perform them (and thus not only of interest to pianists), but how to do it bringing out the fine features contained within each. The black and white titles can seem like an old Charlie Chaplin film, and the setting at the piano a bit staid, but the content I found both enlightening and quite scholarly from a performance practical standpoint (without, of course, delving into the various issues of instrumentation, etc., that might otherwise occupy, say, a harpsichordist). For purists, this set of piano Goldberg s will likely be passed over in favor of the myriad early instrument performances available, and of course the Gould aficionados will stick with their idol come what may. But for interest and a sensitive performance of the variations on a modern piano, Denk’s version really needs to be investigated. For students, his DVD notes give an essential insight into the music, its problems, and its stylistic idiosyncrasies.


FANFARE: Bertil van Boer

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***** 5 Stars (out of 5)
Denk's new recording is at once an extended love letter to intellectual curiosity, the spirit of playfulness, and Bach. Denk is firmly in the driving seat, and while each variation is tellingly characterized, they are incorporated into a coherent, organic vision of the whole.

– BBC Music Magazine Read less

Works on This Recording

1. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jeremy Denk (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1741-1742; Nuremberg, Germany 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  4 Customer Reviews )
 Bach's Goldberg variations November 8, 2013 By P. Yam (Los Angeles, CA) See All My Reviews "Having the DVD in place of written liner notes is really an effective way of explaining and demonstrating the essential structure of these pieces to both pianists and music lovers in general. It is very generous of Jeremy Denk to spend his time in this manner. I wish this way of communication is done more often. The playing is splendid." Report Abuse
 Magnificent playing November 1, 2013 By Colin Thurlow (San Francisco, CA) See All My Reviews "The clarity alone of Jeremy Denk's playing would be enough to recommend this recording. Caveat: The packaging is both ludicrous and cheesy. Can they not afford a double jewel box? As it stands I went out and bought one to protest the discs. Extremely disheartening." Report Abuse
 Wow, those "liner notes"! October 30, 2013 By T. Mackey (Oak Brook, IL) See All My Reviews "I am first of all a devotee of Mr. Denk and like all I have heard: the Ives, Ligeti, the French Album with Bell. I have seen him at the CSO playing a Beethoven Concerto and just a few weeks ago, attended, avidly, his Goldbergs there. Denk's 9 video liner notes are priceless and a must for all lovers of Bach. Truly, a must and a lifetime gift. The music? Wonderful." Report Abuse
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