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Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Goldberg Variations for Strings - Discussions

Goldbergs for string trio

Kirk McElhearn wrote (November 19, 2001):
Anyone heard this?
http://www.joanrecords.com/classical/columns/item/99564.html

John Grant wrote (November 19, 2001):
[To Kirk McElhearn] I have a recording on TACET with the Gaede Trio. I much prefer keyboard accounts.

Charles Francis wrote (November 19, 2001):
[To Kirk McElhearn] Interesting! I can highly recommend his 1993 Goldberg performance arranged for 8-violins, 3-violas, 2-cellos, double bass and harpsichord, on nonesuch.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 19, 2001):
[To Kirk McElhearn] Yes, I have that one and it's all right; but I liked Sitkovetsky's own 1985 recording of the same trio arrangement better. That was on Orfeo and was quite a line-up of all-stars: Sitkovetsky, Causse, and Maisky. Another plus was that the LP came with the complete score of that arrangement.

That was long before Sitkovetsky did his second arrangement, the one for string orchestra.

 

Goldbergs / Str Qt
Goldbergs for Strings

Thomas Boyce wrote (August 21, 2002):
Am I crazy or did I hear a string quartet-version of the Goldberg Variations the other day on the radio.

I saw two string trio versions on Amazon dot com, but no string quartet version.

Bernard Nys wrote (August 22, 2002):
Somebody was asking about a string quartet version of the GV. I can only advise you the transcription for strings by Dmitry Sitkovetsky & the NES Chamber Orchestra on the label NONESUCH.

Thomas Boyce wrote (August 22, 2002):
[To Bernard Nys] I asked about the string quartet version because (A) it sounded so good, and (B) I couldn't find reviews at bach-cantatas or the actual disc on the Internet.

I ordered a version of the Goldbergs for string trio, though.

Thanks,

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 22, 2002):
[To Thomas Boyce] I have both the string trio recordings...both using Sitkovetsky's arrangement (and then he did a later one for string orchestra as well). Sitkovetsky-Causse-Maisky on Orfeo, and Amati String Trio on Columns Classics.

The first one came with a score inside the LP jacket, but I think they discontinued that when they reissued it on CD. It was like the way Telefunken did scores in their Bach cantata series in those LP boxes: several miniaturized pages crammed onto each big page, legible enough but not something one would try to play from.

Don't know about a quartet arrangement.

Charles Francis wrote (August 25, 2002):
Trevor Evans-Young wrote:
< Maybe I missed it but, has anyone commented on the performance of Sitovetsky and the NES strings in the Goldbergs. I have to admit from the first time I heard it I was overwhelmed with the quality of sound and the exhuberant playing. After a few listens, I was struck by the Gouldish quality. Some of the variations have a great motoric drive that is captured by Gould and the string orchestra that Dmitri has assembled. They also bring out the tender qualities in the slow variations. I love the interplay of the strings in the highly contrapunctal variations and the differences of the repeats. Is it possible the list member that asked heard one of the variations that are done with a quartet or a few strings? Is it possible you heard some variations from this recording? >
I fully agree with your comments about Sitovetsky and the NES strings. A great recording of Gouldian quality!

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 26, 2002):
Trevor Evans-Young wrote:
< Maybe I missed it but, has anyone commented on the performance of Sitovetsky and the NES strings in the Goldbergs. (...)
Is it possible the list member that asked heard one of the variations that are done with a quartet or a few strings? Is it possible you heard some variations from this recording? >

This weekend I got that Sitkovetsky string-orchestra recording back off my shelf. Nonesuch 79341. I've always liked it since the day I bought it about five years ago, but I kept forgetting it's there until the recent discussion reminded me. It's lively, easygoing, gentle, alert, tender.... He varies the texture from solo string quartet in some variations to the bigger group in others: maxing out at 4-4-3-2-1 plus harpsichord when everybody's playing.

After hearing the Labadie/Violons du Roy samples from the web sites that Jim Morrison mentioned, I guess I'll have to get that one also. That group is so graceful and sensitive with the strong and weak notes, and that's a fairly high priority for my own enjoyment...that is, I think I'm disposed to react very favorably to a group that does that differentiation well.

Sitkovetsky's orchestra takes a more even-weighted approach to the notes, more "mainstream" if you will (sort of like the generic English Chamber Orchestra sound). Both ways are nice. But hearing Labadie as comparison, maybe I know now why I don't listen to this Sitkovetsky disc as often as I might. With such a basically even
touch, I hear this performance as more merely pleasant than deeply moving. It doesn't grab me; it just recedes into unoffensive background music as I listen to it. It strikes me as a group of good sight-readers skimming their way along the surface of the music, playing all the notes beautifully and generically with clean ensemble, but not digging very far beneath that pretty surface.

I guess it depends how much one likes things that are merely very nice, "Bach lite," easy and unproblematic.

Sitkovetsky's own earlier arrangement for string trio (I mentioned both recordings last week) strikes me as in better character for the composition: it preserves some of the physical difficulty of playing it, and is more intense. Think about a circus act: if the stunt appears completely effortless, it ceases to be as interesting. Sitkovetsky's trio arrangement has danger and bravura, chutzpah, just as the original keyboard work does...the performers need some good luck to pull it off, plus a large amount of hard work, and the effort of conquering difficulty is part of the piece. The string orchestra arrangement, by contrast, sounds straightforward and easy. When we get to the last few variations, I don't hear much sense that they've conquered anything along the way.

Pete Blue wrote (August 27, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] I find the three stringed Goldberg discs mentioned so far in this thread to be lovely, but I would go a step beyond Brad and criticize them ALL to a greater or lesser extent for their superficiality. I suspect I might be reacting to something inherent in the instrumentation, which tends unavoidably to make the Goldbergs resemble salon music, or at least rococo Divertimenti; deeper than mere ear candy, but shallower than the solo keyboard and guitar GVs.

One recording so far unmentioned which I find superior to the two Sitkovetskys and the Labadie is the CBC disc by Triskelion, a string trio comprised of Canadians. Thanks mainly to cellist Bryan Epperson, their performance IMO has a brio and a bite lacking in those others. (I found sound samples on (1) yahoo! classical music
shopping and (2) cdnow.)

Thomas Boyce wrote (August 27, 2002):
[To Pete Blue] True, true... but I ordered my string trio Goldberg Vtns because deep down, I guess, I'm sad that Bach never wrote string quartets! Now for a cup of coffee.

Dyfan Lewis wrote (August 27, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] Anyone out there heard Hussongs GV on accordion. I picked it up second hand and find it earthier than the strings and less imposing than the Norwegian organ one. A fine sound.

 

Goldberg Variations for String Trio

Bart O'Brien wrote (October 22, 2003):
There's a performance of the Goldberg Variations by the Amati String Trio on Columns Classics - available from Joan Records for euro 4.99.

Anyone know anything about it?

Thomas Radleff wrote (October 22, 2003):
[To Bart O'Brien] I tried this one (whis is available at www.zweitausendeins.de for only 1.99 !), since I like these Sitkovetsky instrumentations, but I found it rather boring and uninspired. Nevertheless, at such a price, it´s a good chance for trying.

you are looking for a good string trio version of the GVs, my recommendation is Gaede Trio, 2 CDs (~ 90´), at the Tacet label. I found this one much more colourful and varied than Sitkovetsky´s own recording.

Bart O'Brien wrote (October 22, 2003):
[To Thomas Radleff] Thanks Thomas.

That leaves me with an interesting tricky choice.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 26, 2003):
[To Thomas Radleff] The best thing about the old Orfeo recording of the first Sitkovetsky transcription (Sitkovetsky/Causse/Maisky, the string trio one, not the orchestration) was that the LP edition came with the complete score of his transcription. Too bad they didn't continue to include it when they switched over to CD....

That is: I found it enjoyable to look at what Sitkovetsky did in distributing two-part music to three players, to keep all three players sufficiently occupied and cover the notes. Especially in the variations where the hands cross (e.g. 11 and 20), he had to do quite a bit of shuffling to fit the music into the ranges of his three stringed instruments. The musical lines are passed from one player to another, and occasionally broken up by motif (like in Webern's orchestration of the MO ricercar) making it difficult to play them seamlessly.

And in the four-part variations, he similarly had to pass the double-stops around from player to player covering the fourth part. In the first half of variation 16, he has the viola tacet (i.e. completely resting until the fughetta part) while the violin has to play two independent voices simultaneously...presumably just for contrast, or to make the music sound more difficult? Then in variation 17 he has the violin tacet for the whole variation, while the viola and cello play ludicrously high.

Anyway, as I was saying, I think this transcription is most interesting in showing off the arranger's cleverness (and his players' terrific "chops"). Without the score it would be more difficult to appreciate the odd things he's done here.

I applaud that, incidentally: Sitkovetsky's decision not to distribute the notes in the most facile manner. The difficulty of playing the piece (whether on keyboard or in a transcription) is part of the piece; if it doesn't sound at all difficult, if the playing is too slick, something is lost. Ditto for Scarlatti's sonatas, and Forqueray's suites for viola da gamba: the acrobatic physical motions of playing them are part of the music, and the breathtaking risk "will they hit those notes at all?" contributes to the excitement.

I haven't heard the Gaede recording (hadn't even heard of it yet, thanks Thomas!), but I have liked the Sitkovetsky/Causse/Maisky recording better than the Amati. And in the Amati booklet, the program notes are a direct rip-off from the back cover of the Sitkovetsky LP.

 

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 25, 2006 ý17:50:12