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Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Played by Céline Frisch


J.S. Bach: Variations Goldberg

1. Goldberg Variations BWV 988 [77:30]
2. 14 Canons on the bass of the aria from Goldberg Variations, BWV 1087 [11:49]

Pablo Valetti

Café Zimmermann [2]

Céline Frisch (Harpsichord) [1]

Alpha Productions

Aug 2000 [2]; Nov 2000 [1]

2-CD / TT: 101:47

Recorded at Chapelle de l'hôpital Notre-Dame de Bon Secours, Paris, France 
Buy this album at: |

particularity / Frisch's Goldbergs

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 28, 2003):
Jim Morrison wrote:
< Great post Brad, not only informative, but help unclog a pretty big conflation/confusion I'd had and wasn't even aware of. For years and years I've been seeking out recording that go out of their way to emphasis what was not obvious and have been turning away from those that actually do emphasis the obvious, but I'd never thought of it in such a succinct phrase. "I like recordings that don't emphasis the obvious" or "Recordings that emphasis the obvious don't work for me." Or something like that, but boy of boy did it ring true when I saw what you wrote.

And here's where the conflation comes in. While I said last week that hyperprecisive recordings don't move me as much as those who seemingly focus on other aspects of music making, I now see that even though that's still approximately correct, it's not nearly as clear and logical as it could be because one of the gut/non-linguistic responses I've been having to hyperprecisive recordings is something like "wow, all that skill, all those years of training, all those people learning to play together, all that experience, this recording competing will all those that came before and those that will come after, and they made the decision to use their precision to emphasis the obvious instead of exploring new territory. What a waste."

In other words, those groups could have been using their precision to play something unexpected, to shake it up a little bit, to bring out qualities of the composition that may get pushed under in a relatively straight performance, but instead they give us another middle of the road recording.

It's not that I object to precision so much, but the real problem, I'm thinking this morning, is that I don't like to see so much talent, so much precision, used in the service to create something so average and what sounds to me emotionally uninvolved.

I like recordings that do something different than emphasis the obvious. It's just so dog-gone obvious. Have I really never formulated it like that before? (...) >
Well put, Jim.

When you wrote "I don't like to see so much talent, so much precision, used in the service to create something so average and that sounds to me emotionally uninvolved" that made me think of Celine Frisch's recording of the Goldberg Variations, as an example.

Her debut CD (harmonia mundi) showed that she can play with a decent flexibility, an expressive surface, especially in the French-styled Bach works. I wasn't as happy with her Italianate style on there (the A minor suite, BWV 818a)...too metrically strict, and merely brilliant (aggressive/loud/fast) where there could be more finesse. But the other suites on there show that she can play.

After that, her set of the Goldberg Variations is to me a huge disappointment. She applies only her generic Italianate style to this piece, and it's often so metrically stiff as to have rigor mortis within each variation. Listening to her, I dread the repeats because they don't add any new insight or sparkle, only empty length (during which I'm doubly annoyed and bored).

Worse, she applies one aspect of deliberate 'imprecision' in a very annoying (I'd say "wrong", "uncommunicative") manner. She often adopts a very pronounced staggering between the notes of her two hands, or occasionally within a hand (e.g., the left hand accompaniment in variation 25). Obviously I'm not opposed to this technique in principle, as it is one of the main tools a harpsichordist has to emphasize or de-emphasize melodic notes, and to project a vocal freedom to the lines. But, the way Frisch does it in the Goldbergs, it is deadly. She adopts a consistent amount of this staggering and applies it to an entire variation, the top notes always lagging behind the bottom notes by the same temporal offset. This is the opposite of expressivity. It is the rigidity of automated playing. The worst variations in this regard are 9, 13, 15, 21, 24, 25, and the Aria...I can hardly bear to listen to them! It sounds as if one her teachers (Staier? someone else?) once advised her to cultivate this technique, but she didn't learn to apply it beyond a mechanical level.

As comparison, Leonhardt in his third recording (dhm or Pro Arte) gets away with a sometimes more displaced staggering between the hands, but the crucial difference is that he varies it from note to note, continual variety where some of the attacks line up almost exactly while others are spread. The ear never knows what amount of offset is coming next. It sounds natural, organic, and alert where Frisch merely sounds if her brain isn't paying attention to the notes she's playing. Frisch's way gives the music less clarity rather than more; it merely sounds like two hands locked together but out of phase! (Also, she never explores the possibility of playing the right hand before the left, which is something she should know if she's ever studied Forqueray or the Couperins.)

On the 'particularity' line, Frisch's way with the Goldbergs is to genericize them into a merely nimble, brilliant, "hot" (aggressive) delivery. It quickly sounds one-dimensional, doesn't hold the attention: doesn't have enough particularity (musical expression differentiating this from any other piece of music, or any other technically competent performance).

It's sad and disappointing because, as I noted above, on the evidence of her debut album, she really can play with an uncommon general skill. To that she should add the specific skills of being more communicative, rather than backing away from them toward a generic 'perfection'!

That's my technical assessment of it as a harpsichordist, anyway, my specific reasons why I believe this performance doesn't work. Jim, what do you sense as less than satisfactory in this recording? What do you (Jim or anyone else) feel while listening to it? I'm curious how Frisch's delivery comes across to people who don't play harpsichord....

Jim Morrison wrote (January 29, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Great post. Always love reading more and more about how music is actually made. Like you I was more impressed with Frisch's first disc than with the Goldbergs, which I'm kind of sad to say, are ever more disappointing after I did some comparison tests with her and others like Leonhardt, van Asperen, Hantai, and Spiegelman (on the Kurzweil 250!, 1988 recording.)

While I didn't hear Frisch's 'hands locked out of phase' as specifically as you did, I did say to myself very quickly on "yeah, that's kind of interesting, I can hear some staggering of notes, but it all sounds stiff and monochromatic.' So I was pleased to see your description of what she was actually doing with her fingers to cause that sound.

The biggest negative feeling I get while listening to Frisch is "how stiff. Listen to how the meter is dominating the rhythm. one two there, one two three. Or one two three four, one two three four." I'm not the world's greatest counter of beats, but Frisch is playing them with such metronomic emphasis that I can't get away from it. I keep counting in my head while she plays, as if there's some kind of physical activity (rowing, jogging) I should be while listening. Also that dreaded stock quip comes to mind as well: sounds like a pianist playing a harpsichord.

Another reason, I think the beats over dominating so much is that there's so little sparkle, interesting highlights along the way. Seriously, to listen to Leonhardt, Hantai, van Asperen, Spiegelman was to enter another kind of sound world. So much more freedom with those players, so much more detail, that my brain quickly says 'hey dude, what are you doing trying to count beats. Listen to the music man. You're missing some fantastic stuff." Well okay, not exactly like that, but something similar.

Another concrete example. I think most people would say that the Goldberg variations are actually better than the French Suites. (Leave the argument for another post. ;-) But when I turn from Frisch's Goldbergs to the Alan Curtis out of this world fantastic French Suites, I say "Wow. I'd so much rather hear this than the Frisch." There's so much going on with the Curtis French Suites, such flexibility, variety, expression, vitality, flow.

Frisch's version, when compared with the other top-notch ones in my collection (which is pretty big by the way, I probably have more recordings of the Goldbergs than any single composition, must be up to 30 by now.) her recording does sound like some recording that would be used as a teaching aid for instructing students on the meter of the piece. "This is the ground work on which we start. Hopefully, when you can play the Goldbergs with such a steady beat you'll be able to add embellishments and flexibility."

Like Brad, I also get ants in my pants when the repeats come around. "empty length!" what a phrase. I love it.

Oh Brad, why did you have me do this to Frisch. Before I was happy to put the disc on, say "too stiff. Next. But I love those canons and songs. What a wild man Visse is. Such the counter to Frisch!" Now you've made me think even less of her recording than I already did. :-( When compared with a real hot fellow like Hantai, the Frisch isn't all that hot, is it? Even what you think of as her main attraction isn't all that great when you line her up against van Asperen.

I'm really not into slamming recordings on the list and would prefer more than this one-sided assessment that Brad and I are having. Is there anyone on the list who's impressed with the Frisch? Some positive review on the web maybe? In English? What do people say in praise of her? clear sighted? focused? Not eccentric? Steady? Not distracting? Well recorded. Consistent.


Who sometime later must bring into the conversation a literary critic named William Gass who positively reviews and encourages writers who try to create books that are, in his phrase, 'containers of consciousness.' I think this idea is seriously applicable to the types of music that I love. Gass is hyperbolic, that's true. But I think he's pointing us in the right direction.

Jim Morrison wrote (January 29, 2003):
Here's something by william gass, talking about writing, but take a little stretch and adjust it toward music and I think you'll see he's in step with folks like Brad.

This is not the minimalism of Gertrude Stein and Samuel Beckett, or of Anton Webern and Kasimir Malevich, in which a few obsessively selected means are squeezed into a mighty More - that more, as Mies van der Rohe said, which is the large result of less. This is rather the less, less yields. This is modesty taken down a peg. Here we have the simple without the pretensions of simplicity, plainness without the pressures of an Amish or a Shaker ethic.


The style of these stories, then, is soft tough. They are divested not only of adjectives and adverbs, but of words themselves, almost as if the authors didn't know any. Some warriors arm themselves for battle. These warriors, like wrestlers, strip. They write in strips, too. Images are out. It is fraudulent to poetize. Kept simple, short, direct, like a punch, the sentences avoid subordination, qualification, subtlety. Subordination requires judgment, evaluation; it creates complexity, demands definition. Henry James and William Faulkner had the temerity to put long sentences in their short stories, and these now old masters thought carefully about the relation of technique to reality, about relative weights of meaning and shifts of points of view and accreditation and authority and pacing and scene shaping, so that even if one seemed to toss one's words into a wordless void as Samuel Beckett does, those words as they fell would form constellations, and the mind they had been thrown from would have considered them with the same close concern it would give, say, to suicide.

more on Gass at:

He's one of my all-time favorite authors.

Jim Morrison wrote (January 29, 2003):
French review from altamusic, but I can't read French! Help, somebody! Craig? You speak French and have the recording. Come out come out wherever you are.

Variations Goldberg, BWV 988
14 canons sur les huit premières notes de basse de l'Aria des Variations Goldberg BWV 1087

Céline Frisch, clavecin d'après Silbermann réalisé par Anthony Sidey & Frédéric Bal

Ensemble Café Zimmermann :
Dominique Visse : Ténor
Pablo Valetti, Claire Cachia & David Plantier, Violons
Sabine Bouthinon, Alto - Petr Skalka, Violoncelle - Ludek Brany, Contrebasse
2 CD Alpha 014

Sur l'ensemble des compositions que l'on connaît, Johann Sebastian Bach ne brille pas pour son recours aux techniques de l'ostinato (ligne de basse répétée tout au long d'une pièce), si prisées de ses contemporains.

Comme contributions évidentes (mais parcimonieuses à l'échelle de son immense corpus), on retient évidemment la grande Passacaille avec son motif de basse hypnotique et la Chaconne pour violon seul où l'élément de basse devient virtuel car l'instrument ne peut le tenir.

Si ce n'est quelques usages dans sa musique vocale, Bach n'aura décidément pas été le champion de la basse obstinée ; mais il est vrai que la facilité n'a jamais été un penchant naturel chez lui.

Redécouverts en 1975, les 14 canons associés aux variations Goldberg constituent a contrario presque un pied de nez savant à cette technique de la basse " tête de mule " (dont l'Offrande Musicale avait déjà un dévoilé le procédé).

D'une même basse, Bach a édifié des minuscules pièces dont la géométrie totalement symétrique autorise des lectures dans tous les sens et en boucle infinie. La réalisation instrumentale n'étant pas spécifiée, les interprètes sont libres de leur créativité et ici, la qualité première de la réalisation du Café Zimmermann est ne pas avoir négligé la dimension humoristique de l' entreprise.

Impossible de ne pas noter le déhanchement de la basse, l'espièglerie des violons et de ne pas sourire au jeu de ces musiciens séquestrés volontaires dans leurs propres boucles musicales. Sans compter la conclusion en chansons dont les thèmes sont cités dans la dernière variation des Goldberg. Une occasion savoureuse de découvrir Dominique Visse à cheval sur les registres de ténor et contre-ténor.

Mais naturellement, ce sont les Variations Goldberg qui constituent la substance première de cet album ; un enregistrement qui vient d'ailleurs couronner plusieurs années de récitals pour la claveciniste Céline Frisch.

Ici, le chemin parcouru et la maturité acquise sont manifestes. Les tempi se sont assagis, et en même temps densifiés, alors que la variété d'ensemble est beaucoup plus sensible. Pourtant la caractéristique saillante de cette
lecture reste son unité.

Même si leur majestueuse et volubile architecture le dissimule complètement, toutes les variations des Goldberg s'appuient sur une même basse dont le génie de Bach a su vaincre l'obstination. Toute la force de l'interprétation de Céline Frisch est de le faire sentir, de jouer d'un même souffle la partition comme s'il s'agissait d'une grande chac.

Typiquement, voilà une version qui n'est pas faite pour les écoutes comparées variation par variation, car prises individuellement et malgré le toucher souverain de la claveciniste, on trouvera souvent plus de qualités chez des maîtres comme Leonhardt ou Gould.

Mais comme ces tableaux que l'on apprécie qu'avec du recul, ces nouvelles Goldberg engendrent sur la durée leur propre profondeur de champs, un canon de la vertu pour le redoutable instrument soliste qu'est le clavecin.

and a notice of Frisch playing F. Couperin in concert

À l'opposé, la noblesse naturelle du toucher de Céline Frisch la distingue immédiatement de ses consours. Un équilibre, un soutien des sons, des pleins et déliés qui rappellent décidément beaucoup Leonhardt. Si son Couperin s' égare aussi dans les fastes de Rameau, il faut retenir quelques moments de grâces avec en particulier sa pièce fétiche La Garnier et les Idées Heureuses.

and a concert review called (seriously) "Céline Frisch, la petite fiancée du clavecin" can that really mean what it looks like?


Les Variations Golberg de Johann Sebastian Bach par Céline Frisch à la Sorbonne

Céline Frisch, la petite fiancée du clavecin

À 26 ans, elle est sans doute la claveciniste la plus prometteuse de sa génération. En juin dernier, dans l'acoustique idéale que constitue l' Amphithéâtre Richelieu de la Sorbonne, elle donnait une version fébrile des
variations Goldberg.

Amphithéâtre Richelieu de la Sorbonne, Paris
Le 15/06/2000

a.. Le Barbier embastillé
a.. La beauté du diable

.. Un physique de cinéma
[ Tous les concerts ]
(ex: Harnoncourt, Opéra)

Envoi de l'article
à un ami

Tout de bois ciré, haut de plafond (il s'agit en fait d'un dôme) l'Amphithéâtre Richelieu donne un volume et une ampleur rare au clavecin Silbermann d'Anthony Sidey ; lequel possède déjà, hors de ce nouvel écrin acoustique, un timbre rutilant. Sur son clavier, la qualité de toucher de Céline Frisch prend immédiatement du relief. Mais qu'est-ce au juste que le toucher sur un instrument à la mécanique rudimentaire pratiquement dépourvue de pouvoir dynamique ? La réponse est un subtil équilibre entre le détaché et lié des notes qui se succèdent, quelque chose comme la quantité d'air que l'interprète instille entre chacunes d'elles. Si l'on trace une ligne de démarcation sur les touches noires et blanches, il y a d'un côté Ton Koopman ou Rinaldo Alessandrini qui insufflent beaucoup d'air, à l'opposé on trouve Pierre Hantaï qui pousse parfois la fusion des notes jusqu'à l'ébullition savonneuse. Il n'est d'ailleurs pas indifférent que les premiers soient aussi organistes et pas le second. Entre les deux, il y a le toucher magistralement équilibré de Gustav Leonhardt et un acrobate comme Andreas Staier qui sait à la fois lier Bach comme du Ligeti (son premier disque des Fantaisies de Bach) ou détacher comme une mécanique d'arme automatique dans Scarlatti. Si Céline Frisch est élève du second, c'est dans la sphère du premier que son propre toucher respire.

Elle a en revanche audiblement hérité de Staier un solide complexe du côté de la virtuosité. Alors que ce dernier a livré récemment à Paris une version intérieure et retenue des Goldberg, la jeune Céline situe l'ouvre dans un espace-temps beaucoup plus ramassé. À en croire le sablier électronique, les 30 variations et deux arias se dissipent en 70 minutes reprises incluses alors que la plupart des autres interprètent gravitent autour de 90 minutes. En dépit des tempi constamment rapides et peu différenciés, le plus surprenant est que l'interprète maintient à l'échelle une articulation nette et d'amples phrasés. Seules les variations en ton mineur détonnent franchement.

On a pu lire ailleurs que Staier brûlait les claviers. Le fait est qu' il avait dû passer peu auparavant enflammer le Silbermann car les touches sont restées si incandescentes que son élève n'a jamais été en mesure d'y laisser reposer ses doigts bien longtemps. Sur sa lancée, Céline Frisch a offert en bis une Garnier de Couperin qu'il faudrait sans doute consigner dans le Guiness pour sa célérité. Mais à n'en pas douter, lorsqu'elle sera à même de briser son complexe Staiérien, c'est dans une autre bible qu'il faudra consigner les talents de Céline Frisch, celle des inoubliables serviteurs de Bach. Elle ne s'écrit qu'avec des notes et des silences.

Jim Morrison wrote (January 29, 2003):
And yet more in French, this time on the Quodlibet, from the liner notes, I guess of the Alpha CD

La dernière variation.
Parmi les trente variations, la dernière a depuis longtemps retenu l'attention des musiciens et des historiens. Loin de clore l'ouvre dans la virtuosité, après l'accumulation de difficultés techniques des variations précédentes, son écriture, canonique là encore, s'élargit et s'apaise.

Forkel, l'inventeur de la légende Goldberg, remarque aussi que cette trentième variation n'est pas semblable aux autres. Bach lui donne un titre: Quodlibet. Autrement dit : comme il vous plaira, un petit rien. Pourquoi Forkel affirme-t'il que ce Quodlibet "suffirait à lui seul pour rendre son auteur immortel" ? Hoffmann ne disait pas autre chose dans la nouvelle citée précédemment. Lorsque le Kapellmeister Kreisler arrive à l'exécution de la trentième variation, il entre en extase : "le thème m'entraîna irrésistiblement plus loin. (.) Les notes prenaient vie, étincelaient, sautillaient autour de moi, un feu électrique s'échappait de l'extrémité de mes doigts sur les touches .".

Aux XVII et XVIIIe siècles, un quodlibet est, en Allemagne, une forme musicale qui superpose, ou fait alterner, des bribes de chansons populaires. Son principe se rencontre partout : en France, la fricassée ; en Italie, la misticanza ; en Espagne, l'ensalada. La famille Bach, qui comptait un grand nombre de musiciens, se réunissait une fois par an, et il semble bien que le quodlibet ait été à ces fêtes l'un de leurs divertissements favoris.

Le quodlibet formant la trentième variation Goldberg est composé de trois éléments superposés. La basse issue de l'Aria initiale, et deux chansons populaires. Ici encore, Bach ne donne pas d'indication. C'est à une note manuscrite d'un de ses élèves, Johann Christian Kittel, que nous devons le peu d'informations indirectes dont nous disposons et qui ont permis d'identifier et retrouver les deux chansons.

Selon Kittel, le premier air cité dans le Quodlibet était chanté avec ces paroles : "je suis resté si longtemps loin de toi, reviens, reviens, reviens".[9] Ni les biographes de Bach, ni les très abondantes bases de données actuelles sur le Volkslied allemand n'ont réussi à trouver trace de cette chanson populaire. Cette disparition coïncide mal avec l'idée d'un air fameux et connu de tous, alors que la conservation du patrimoine populaire allemand est menée avec le plus grand sérieux depuis le milieu du XVIIIe siècle. Une source subsiste néanmoins, très intéressante car elle prend son origine à Leipzig, où Bach passe la plus grande partie de sa vie professionnelle, de 1723 à 1750. Dans un texte publié en 1696[10], une troupe de musiciens interprète devant l'hôtel de ville un divertissement musical ressemblant fort à un quodlibet, dans lequel se mêlent des tambours battant la sarabande, des chalemies exécutant une Todten Tantz (danse des morts), un cistre accompagnant une danse paysanne et, le plus intéressant pour nous, deux luths jouant la chanson "ich bin so lang bey dir nicht

L'histoire de l'origine de la seconde chanson est plus riche. Pour ce qui concerne la mélodie, elle est depuis longtemps identifiée comme un fragment d'une danse italienne issue de la Renaissance, la Bergamasca. De nombreux musiciens l'ont utilisée, de Fasolo[11] à Scheidt, en passant par Buxtehude (dans les variations sur la Capricciosa) et Frescobaldi. C'est peut-être à ce dernier que Bach rend hommage ; il possédait en effet dans sa bibliothèque un exemplaire des Fiori Musicali de 1635, lesquels contenaient une série de variations sur la Bergamasca suffisamment difficiles à exécuter pour que Frescobaldi précise sous le titre que "celuiqui jouera cette Bergamasca n'apprendra pas peu"[12]. Remarque que l'on pourrait appliquer aussi aux Variations de Bach .

Originaire de Bergame, la Bergamasca a sillonné l'Europe entière avec les comédiens de la Commedia dell'Arte. Elle est la chanson et la danse du Zanni, le valet bergamasque rusé et manipulateur. On la trouve aussi dans le périmètre d'influence de la Réforme, importée par les nombreux étudiants allemands et hongrois qui font le voyage d'Italie. Le lointain ancêtre de la famille Bach, le meunier musicien Veit, a peut-être lui aussi contribué à ces échanges artistiques en fuyant la Hongrie pour continuer à suivre la doctrine de Luther. C'est d'ailleurs une Pergamasca (sic) hongroise qui sert de trame à la reconstitution de notre enregistrement. Sa ligne mélodique épouse fidèlement celle qui est citée au début et à la fin du Quodlibet, contrairement aux versions tronquées de Buxtehude et Scheidt. Elle est extraite d'un manuscrit de la fin du XVIIe siècle, le Codex Vietoris, qui contient aussi d'autres danses et des chansons spirituelles. La musique est notée en tablature, les notes étant représentées par la graphie des lettres de l'alphabet, selon un système inventé et utilisé pour la première fois par Elias Nicolaus Ammerbach, dans un recueil de chansons et danses allemandes publié en 1571. Or, le rapprochement mérite d'être signalé, Ammerbach fut le prédécesseur lointain de Bach comme organiste de Saint Thomas de Leipzig, de 1531 à 1595. Johann Sebastian connaissait bien sa musique et possédait rien moins que trois exemplaires de sa tablature d'orgue de 1571[13], ce qui peut laisser penser qu'il accordait une importance toute particulière à cette filiation artistique.

Pour ce qui concerne les paroles de cette Pergamasca, Kittel ne donne qu'une phrase du texte :
Kraut und Rüben haben mich vertrieben Hätt mein Mutter Fleisch gekocht, so wär ich länger blieben (Choux et navets m'ont fait fuir Si ma mère avait fait de la viande, je serais resté plus longtemps) Ces deux lignes ne suffisent pas à faire une chanson entière, bien que plusieurs sources anciennes placent ces paroles, avec quelques variantes, sur une partie de la mélodie de la Bergamasca. On les trouve par exemple dans la Tafelkonfeckt d'Augsburg, publiée en 1737 par Valentin Rathgeber, ce qui confirme bien qu'il s'agissait d'une chanson alors en vogue, sujette à d'innombrables adaptations. Il nous a semblé intéressant de chercher le texte d'une chanson complète, adaptable de surcroît à la structure mélodique de la Pergamasca du Codex Vietoris. Nous l'avons trouvée dans le recueil Des Knaben Wunderhorn, d'Arnim et Brentano (1806), issu de la collecte patiente des chansons allemandes anciennes encore en circulation durant la seconde moitié du XVIIIe siècle.

Au premier abord, cette histoire où il est question de choux et de navets est totalement incohérente. Elle n'est cependant pas sans évoquer les très nombreuses natures mortes de cuisines dans lesquelles ces deux légumes sont presque toujours présents. Surtout elle se rattache à la tradition du Caprice, très vivace en Europe durant tout le XVIIe siècle dans certains écrits poétiques [14] ou dans une partie des gravures de Jacques Callot, tradition reposant sur l'idée que la raison seule ne saurait expliquer le monde.

Les deux chansons appartiennent à la catégorie du Kehraus, cette dernière danse du bal, gaie ou sauvage, où éclatent les dernières expressions de joie. En citant ces deux chansons alors connues de tous à la fin de ses Variations, Bach indique clairement son intention : la fête est terminée, le brillant exercice virtuose des Variations arrive à son terme. Peut-être veut-il aussi établir un lien entre ce qu'il est devenu, lui, et les origines musicales populaires de sa famille, ainsi que le suggérait Philipp Spitta, auteur en 1873 de la première biographie érudite sur Bach. N'oublions pas en effet qui sont les trois frères Bach placés en ouverture de l'arbre généalogique : Veit, le boulanger, chantant et jouant du cistre au rythme régulier de la meule, Hans, le jongleur, qui a pour devise que celui qui l'entend jouer du violon ne peut s'empêcher de rire, et Caspar, le sonneur municipal (Stadtpfeifer).

Mais le Kehraus a aussi un autre sens : "O violoneuse mort, joue nous donc le Kehraus" écrit le poète romantique August von Platen. La dernière danse est celle qui mène les humains vers leur fin, dans un ultime tourbillon. Les prédicateurs qui sillonnent alors l'Allemagne réformée ne manquent pas de le rappeler : c'est le diable en personne qui mène la danse et le Kehraus dans lequel il nous entraîne est l'un des signes visibles de la folie de ce monde.

Jim Morrison wrote (January 29, 2003):
Oh wait, here's the link to where I got the text to the liner notes:

Don't worry, I'm going to work soon and all this mad emailing will be over

Ps: sound sample is of one of the 14 canons and not of Firsch.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 29, 2003):
[To Jim Morrison] Yep, Spiegelman and those others! In Spiegelman's I especially appreciate the way he makes the whole piece FUN, and not just the jokey humor of the quodlibet...but the whole thing being an Entertainment rather than a Serious Piece of Classical Music. He really grooves.

As for a pianist playing harpsichord, one of my favorite Goldbergs is from a surprising player: Keith Jarrett. This is the only harpsichord record of his that I like, but this one is a home run. He projects strong moods, especially on the side of serenity. And from the technical harpsichord point of view, he really gets it right with the 'imprecision' thing. His left hand is basically steady (though not metronomic) and the right hand can play all around that, sometimes after the beat, at other times subtly before the beat, exquisitely. It sounds heartfelt and human. There are a few lapses into automated phrasing, here and there, but for the most part he's really got it. His treatment of repeats is tasteful and un-boring. Overall he does well at projecting the beauty of the music rather than calling attention to himself. Have you heard this recording?

I like those Gass quotes!


Goldberg Variations from Celine Frisch

Donald Satz wrote (September 14, 2004):
Just thought some folks might be interested to know that the Goldberg Variations performed on harpsichord by Celine Frisch finally has a U.S. distributor - Premiere Music Distributors. This particular disc on the French label "Alpha". My enthusiasm stems from a Frisch disc on Harmonia Mundi of Bach keyboard works released two or three years ago without any U.S. distribution.


Frisch Goldbergs

Leila Batarseh wrote (September 22, 2004):
Could anyone tell me anything (positive or negative) about Celine Frisch's Goldbergs on Alpha? I can't seem to find a review anywhere, and I don't know anything about her playing. Thanks,

Craig Schweickert wrote (September 22, 2004):
[To Leila Batarseh] Funny you should bring this up, Leila. I'd noticed that Brad listed Frisch among his BRML discoveries ("Over the past few years I've increased my collection of Bach recordings by something like 25% due to the stimulating discussions that are had about the available resources, getting me to notice options I hadn't been aware of. For example, Diego Fasolis, Celine Frisch, and the Brilliant Classics series.") and I've been meaning to ask if he was referring to her Goldbergs. If he was, I'd be surprised because I find the performance lacking in exactly the qualities he admires in Parmentier's Partitas. In a phrase, she plays the notes more than the music. I listened to the disc a few times after acquiring it and often felt like yelling, "Breathe, goddammit!" Have only put it on the player once in the months since; it struck me as less straight-jacketed than I remembered but still quite far from ideal and very much overshadowed by, say, Hantai on Mirare.

Others have beenmore positive. The French press went predictably gaga over the recording. Gramophone's John Durate was hardly less stinting in his praise ("This is a splendidly recorded and produced set from which you can learn more about what surrounds the Goldberg Variations than from any other I know of, and the performance is one to raise the spirits. No matter how many other recordings you have, I urge you to treat yourself to this one. I'm sure Bach would have loved it."). And as I recall, our own Riccardo lauded the "freshness" of the interpretation and playing.

One undeniable attraction of the set is the 25-minute second CD, which includes a rustic performance of 14 canons on the first eight bass notes of the Aria (Strasbourg manuscript) BWV 1087.

I'd resolved to listen to Frisch again before posting a response to Brad and to Don's notice about the U.S. availability of the recording, a resolution I've now broken. Still, I'll put Frisch on the player in the next day or two and let you know if my impressions have changed.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 22, 2004):
< I'd noticed that Brad listed Frisch among his BRML discoveries ("Over the past few years I've increased my collection of Bach recordings by something like 25% due to the stimulating discussions that are had about the available resources, getting me to notice options I hadn't been aware of. For example, Diego Fasolis, Celine Frisch, and the Brilliant Classics series.") and I've been meaning to ask if he was referring to her Goldbergs. >
Nope. Her French/Italian/German debut album where she played BWV 870 / 816 / 818a / 912 / 808.

I've heard her Goldbergs but didn't bother to buy a copy.

Donald Satz wrote (September 22, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Did you not buy Frisch's Goldbergs because you didn't care much for it or was your wallet empty?

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 23, 2004):
[To Donald Satz] Both. Especially as, at the time, the choice came down to an either/or with Gwen Toth's set on Lautenwerck (ordered directly from her on the web). I already have many recs I like on harpsichord, but none on Lautenwerck, so that choice was easy: and Toth's performance brings out the gentler aspects of the music very nicely.

I might still get Frisch's set sometime anyway...but will probably get the Hantai remake first.

All of these have the instrument tuned wrong, but that's beside the point for now.......

Henri Sanguinetti wrote (September 23, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] I do not pretend knowing much. I just listened to the Goldberg almost every morning for many years, starting my day with them. Changing from piano to harpsichord and from old to young players. Of course what I call a good recording is the one that I have needed to listen too much longer, and that I need to listen to before any others. I must confess for long periods Hantai kept the leading position, with Gustav Leonhardt. At the end side may be there was Landovska and Kempf. Then Celine Frisch came out....Even now I still enjoy it.

Leila Batarseh wrote (September 22, 2004):
[To Craig Schweickert] Craig, thanks for your response. I would think, judging from your description, that I wouldn't like this recording very much, and I gather from reading Brad's response that he doesn't think much of it either. Since I usually like and dislike the same harpsichord recordings that he does, I think that between the two of you I've been convinced not to buy the Frisch. Fortunately I've got Leonhardt's DHM recording coming in the mail in the next couple of days, so I shan't languish for lack of new Goldbergs. :>)

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 23, 2004):
[To Leila Batarseh] Wait. I wouldn't say DON'T buy the Frisch. It's very well done; I just happened not to warm to it personally on a quick hearing more than half a year ago. I'm ready to give it another chance, myself. At this point I don't remember enough about it to say anything more, other than a rather philosophical suggestion: it's a wise business move to buy the work of outstanding young artists (such as Frisch is), encouraging more of it. And, it's always a treat to hear a difficult instrument (as harpsichord is) played really well and sensitively (as Frisch does).

Leonhardt's DHM: two thumbs and eight fingers up. After 20 years and at least three copies of it variously on LP and CD, that's still one of my tops. I wish he'd played the repeats. But what's there is marvelous. The subtlety of that performance! (Blows away his own Teldec/Telefunken and the old Vanguard, too, IMO. But I know that Don and some others here like those earlier two more than I do.)

Donald Satz wrote (September 22, 2004):
[To Leila Batarseh] This sounds like 'group taste', and I'm not buying it. However, I am buying the Frisch. It costs $31 through ArchivMusic, but only $22 from Premiere Music Distributors. I'm confident it will be much better than the recent Barenboim endeavor.

Leila Batarseh wrote (September 22, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Don't worry Brad, I know that's not what you were saying. But I have a really limited amount of money for cd buying (these days I like to spend my spare cash on toys for the tot), so I tend not to buy recordings of works I already have multiple recordings of unless it's by one of my absolute favorite performers, or I get several ringing endorsements from people whose taste I know and trust, and I don't seem to be getting that for Frisch's recording. This doesn't mean I won't buy it sometime in the future though. So if you do get around to buying it I hope you'll post your impressions, and maybe more people who already have will talk about it more here.

Leila Batarseh wrote (September 22, 2004):
[To Donald Satz] Well I hope you'll write a review here once you get it. Because (at least for me) that's a lot of money to spend on a cd until I hear more good things about it than I've heard so far - But I don't want to miss out on a good thing!

Donald Satz wrote (September 22, 2004):
[To Leila Batarseh] No problem. I post all my Bach reviews here in addition to other sites, and I review every Bach disc I acquire. Just for clarification, "recent Barenboim endeavor" applies to his WTC Book I. His Goldbergs is from quite a few years ago.


Goldberg Variations BWV 988: Details
1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1994 | 1995-1999 | 2000-2005 | 2005-2009 | 2010-2014 | 2015-2019
Comparative Review: Goldberg Variations on Piano:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Comparative Review: Round-Up of Goldberg Variations Recordings:
Recordings | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Reviews of Individual Recordings:
GV - R. Barami, J. Crossland, O. Dantone, D. Propper | GV - M. Cole | GV - J. Crossland | GV - E. Dershavina | GV - S. Dinnerstein | GV - R. Egarr [Lehman] | GV - R. Egarr [Satz] | GV - R. Egarr [Bright] | GV - Feltsman | GV- P. Hantai | GV - P. Hantaï (2nd) | GV - K. Haugsand | GV - A. Hewitt | GV - R. Holloway | GV- H. Ingolfsdottir | GV- K. Ishizaka | GV - J. Jando | GV - B. Lagacé | GV - G. Leonhardt | GV- K. Lifschitz | GV - A. Newman | GV - T. Nikolayeva 3rd | GV- J. Payne | GV - W. Riemer | GV - C. Rousset | GV - S. Schepkin, M. Yudina & P. Serkin | GV - A. Schiff [ECM] | GV- H. Small | GV - M. Suzuki | GV - G. Toth | GV - K.v. Trich | GV - R. Tureck [Satz] | GV - R. Tureck [Lehman] | GV- B. Verlet | GV - A. Vieru | GV - J. Vinikour | GV - A. Weissenberg | GV - Z. Xiao-Mei
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Quodlibet in GV | GV for Strings
Discussions of Individual Recordings:
GV - D..Barenboim | GV - P.J. Belder | GV - E. Dershavina | GV - S. Dinnerstein | GV - R. Egarr | GV - V. Feltsman | GV - C. Frisch | GV - G. Gould | GV - P. Hantaï | GV - R. Holloway | GV - J. Jando | GV - K. Jarrett | GV - G. Leonhardt | GV - V. Makin | GV - A. Newman | GV - S. Ross | GV - A. Schiff | GV - R. Schirmer | GV - H. Small | GV - G. Sultan | GV - G. Toth | GV - R. Tureck | GV - S. Vartolo | GV - B. Verlet
The Quodlibet as Represented in Bach’s Final Goldberg Variation BWV 988/30 [T. Braatz]

Céline Frisch: Short Biography | Recordings of Non-Vocal Works
Reviews of Non-Vocal Recordings:
Bach Harpsichord Works from Céline Frisch
Discussions of Non-Vocal Recordings:
Goldberg Variations BWV 988 - played by Céline Frisch

Instrumental Works: Recordings, Reviews & Discussions - Main Page | Order of Discussion
Recording Reviews of Instrumental Works: Main Page | Organ | Keyboard | Solo Instrumental | Chamber | Orchestral, MO, AOF
Performers of Instrumental Works: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


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