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Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Played by Vance Makin

Discussions

Recording

1

The Variations Goldberg

Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Vance Makin (Piano)

Neurology Edition

2004 ?

CD / TT: 77:23

Insert background music: Bach's additional 14 canons on the Goldberg bass, discovered in 1974.

New variations on Bach's Goldbergs and yet another recording of the GBs

Anne Smith wrote (September 13, 2004):
Peter wrote:
< This morning I stumbled across an interesting site which gives details > of a recent commission for 12 composers to each produce a new variation based on Bach's Goldbergs. You can listen to five of them here: http://npr.streamsage.com/google/programlist/feature.php?wfid=3912892
I found them all very interesting, but my favourites were "Melancholy Minuet" by Fred Hersch and "My Goldberg (Gymnopedie)" by David Tredici. None of them except the Hersch piece appeared obviously related to a particular variation (at least after a single listen) but they are all good.
You can also listen to a 7 minute audio piece on this commission.
Hope you enjoy it! >

I received this site from another group yesterday and I had a message in my draft box ready to send to this group. I also enjoyed it.

From this site I found the following:
www.thegoldbergvariations.com
There is a CD called "Johann Sebastian Bach - The Goldberg Variations , Neurology Edition " played by Vance Makin. I clicked on the CD and found two samples. The theory is that Bach wanted listeners to hear the individual voices clearly. "The new recording presents the voices clearly and also reincarnates the harpsichord's extra registers on a modern grand piano."

Yes, you can hear each voice very clearly, but I found the sound of the piano rather poor especially in Variation 6." Has anyone heard the whole CD?

Peter Bright wrote (September 13, 2004):
[To Anne Smith] Thanks Anne,

I also found the sound disappointingly 'tinny', and variation 5 was delivered in a rather mechanical fashion to my ears. I'm not sure whether the 'separation' of the lines through raising or lowering octaves really achieves what it should (i.e., greater differentiation among the voices for the listener). On piano, one only needs to put on Glen Gould's interpretations to appreciate this without such forced separation. On a purely subjective measure, I enjoy a limited amount of 'blending' among the voices, irrespective of Bach's original intentions.

Jan Hanford wrote (September 13, 2004):
[To Anne Smith] I have it. I thought it was terrible. On the cd the piano sound isn't tinny but is recorded way too close. Worse, the performance is very robotic sounding.

The addition of the octaves to allegedly bring out the voices doesn't work except as a distraction. I sometimes actually found it annoying, particularly with some of the strange stereo placement.

I love Bach on the piano but the concept of "recreating" the sound of Bach's harpsichord (per the liner notes) by using a grand piano is one of the silliest concepts I've heard in a long time.

I refer to it as "The Neurotic Edition".

Teri Noel Towe wrote (September 13, 2004):
One of the silliest concepts?

Jan Hanford wrote:
< I love Bach on the piano but the concept of "recreating" the sound of Bach's harpsichord (per the liner notes) by using a grand piano is one of the silliest concepts I've heard in a long time. >
I politely beg to differ. The performance of the GVs that the late Gunnar Johansen, a Petri pupil, recorded on a Moor Double Keyboard piano around 1959 is not only aurally fascinating but also musically convincing.

Johansen recorded the complete keyboard works on a series of self-produced recordings, using piano, double keyboard piano, harpsichord, and clavichord. The label was called Artist-Direct. He made a point of recordings the "spurious" works as well, and he think that he is the only performer to have made so "complete" a recording of the Bach keyboard works.

I have no idea if any of these recordings has made it to CD. This posting, however, will inspire me to take some of the LPs off of the shelf and play them for the first time in years.

Arthur wrote (September 13, 2004):
[To Teri Noel Towe] Very interesting. My initial impression of Dr Maikin's reading of GV was quite negative. Tho I didn't dislike his performance as much as other respondents, two observations: 1)The notion that GV was composed to be performed on a multiple-manual instrument seems unremarkable to me.Ditto that that octave-doubling was intended (I admit I know very little re older instruments,but JSB seems to specify more particularly than usual itr).2)I did however very much dislike the overdubbing--jarring,etc. I got out my LP of Wanda (from jr highschool days!)-what a treat! If any info surfaces re Johansen on CD I'd like to hear about it. (BTW just got C. Rosen's version--love it. 1st for me that does repeats.)

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 13, 2004):
yet another recording of the GBs

www.thegoldbergvariations.com
< There is a CD called "Johann Sebastian Bach - The Goldberg Variations, Neurology Edition " played by Vance Makin. I clicked on the CD and found two samples. The theory is that Bach wanted listeners to hear the individual voices clearly. "The new recording presents the voices clearly and also reincarnates the harpsichord's extra registers on a modern grand piano." >
I'd looked at this briefly some months ago, and enjoyed the samples for the interesting piano "registration" as a novelty, but haven't ordered the disc. Maybe sometime. The phrasing within those short samples on the web
seems pretty stiff....

Anyway, the explanation there about reincarnating the hpsi's extra registers, yadda yadda yadda, is seriously lacking in background. Piano tone already has those additional octaves (above the fundamental) in it, although in lesser amounts than with harpsichord tone...where the plucked string, near the nut, is richer in those upper partials than piano tone (dull thud with a soft hammer) is. Basic acoustics.

The writer's illustration converting the opening chord of var 16 into a big stack of notes (four notes converted into ten) is therefore rather silly; for one thing, it would be twelve (as duplications do matter), and for another, those upper components are already in the tone anyway without being played as separate notes.

So: by altering his piano performance to include additional octaves for tone color, he's doing a musically appropriate thing (but artificially) the way we harpsichordists and organists would do by simply drawing more stops on the instruments; and it makes a good effect. But, his explanation of it on the web is a roundabout mess...not that that really matters to a listener to the performance. The way he presents the harpsichord's resources, all you get is a single uncontrollable ding of one, two or three notes simultaneously, and that's pretty much all the player can do as to dynamics or other expression. BZZT. Wrong. An understandable view, but wrong, from a serious underestimation of the harpsichord.

His stereo separation of the voices is interesting, too. But again, it's something that's not even really a problem to be overcome, except on piano. On harpsichord the two manuals are plucking their strings at different points and getting different tone colors from them, and they stand apart from one another in tone without needing also to be separated in stereo spread. Furthermore, it's basic harpsichord playing technique to stagger notes somewhat within the texture--playing the right hand slightly before or after the bass--even if they look simultaneous on the page; which pianists are loth to do. That's where a richness of texture and the sensuousness comes from, more than the mechanical addition or subtraction of stops! Good harpsichord technique, along with good organ technique, is about much more than registration. Most of the expressivity happens in touch, and very finely-grained control of time, outside registration altogether!

His that "the harpsichord - unlike the piano - is very limited in its ability to vary articulation (note length)" is, again, pretty silly and shows no understanding of the harpsichord. Control of articulation is fundamental harpsichord technique, and I dare say that even harpsichordists at merely a medium level of experience (two or three years of serious lessons) are already much better aware of that layer of things than good pianists are. It's a completely different approach to phrasing, timing, and articulation, compared with 19th century pianistic long lines; and anybody who asserts that it doesn't exist simply doesn't understand that it exists--i.e. hasn't studied the ways to control it. Varied articulation within phrases is our bread and butter: subtle groups of twos, threes, fours, fives, different releases from different notes, alterations of metric placement, etc etc etc. The ability to help listeners perceive independent lines is part of the complex art of playing the instrument, and there are many facets to it. But, long passages of uniform staccato (as in his sample) and uniform legato (as in his other sample) ain't it, except as a rarely-used special effect.

In short, Makin is doing various things with technical wizardry of the recording to try to overcome the piano's inherent homogeneity of tone, and to overcome anachronistic traditions of too-consistent articulation; an interesting idea, but why not just go take harpsichord lessons and then perform the GV on harpsichord instead of all this artificiality? If he wanted to figure out "what Bach heard in his own brain", as claimed, wouldn't it be better to work with the tools and techniques Bach really knew (and tune the instrument the right way, too) instead of substituting later ones?

Anne Smith wrote (September 13, 2004):
Vance Makin Goldbergs

Thank you Peter, Jan and Bradley for your opinions on this. From reading the material at the site and listening to the sample I had a feeling this would not be a good buy. If I had tons of money for CD purchases I might feel differently.

Aryeh Oron wrote (October 2, 2004):
Gunnar Johansen [was: One of the silliest concepts?]

[To Teri Noel Towe] Thanks for reminding me of Gunnar Johansen.

During the late 1970's I read about him in a classical magazine. The article said that a New York station planned to broadcast his complete recordings of Liszt's piano works. At that time I was very keen of these works. I wrote to Artist Direct, asked for their catalogue. I was surprised to learn that GJ had also recorded the complete oeuvre of Bach's Keyboard works. I ordered some Liszt's, Busoni's Bach transcriptions, and two Bach's albums - GV and AOF. With the shipment I also received a personal message from GJ, which I still keep with me. I was amazed at his dexterity, musicianship, sincerity, control and sense of direction. His interpretations reflects high intelligence, but above all I appreciated his humanity, both in Bach and Liszt. To this day he is my favourite pianist of both composers.

When I came back to Bach in late 1999, one of my first actions was to find out where can I find GJ's recordings. I have leant from Classical Piano Mailing List that he passed away in the early 1990's and that his widow still held some boxes with his albums. A nice guy took the trouble to visit her in one of the weekends and he sent me a box with all GJ Bach's recordings. A friend of mine transferred for me many of the albums to CD form and I do listen to them from time to time. Following your message I put the GV and I am listening to it right now. His interpretation is so different from most of the herd (the closet to him is Charles Rosen), but sound so true to Bach!

I hope that some day his complete Bach Keyboard works (43 LP's) will would be issued in CD form. AFAIK only 1 CD was printed by Baroque Music Club, in which GJ plays on harpsichord (and not Double Keyboard Piano).

 

Goldberg Variations BWV 988: Details
Recordings:
1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019
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 - 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
Article:
The Quodlibet as Represented in Bach’s Final Goldberg Variation BWV 988/30 [T. Braatz]

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Last update: ýMarch 26, 2006 ý12:40:39