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Goldberg Variations BWV 988
Bach's Goldberg Variations on Piano

Contents

Recordings
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

 

Recordings

1

Rosalyn Tureck II: Bach (Great Pianists of the 20th Century) [K-5]

Goldberg Variations BWV 988 [93:58 / 93:45]

Rosalyn Tureck (Piano)

Philips (from HMV/Capitol)

Jun, Aug 1957 [4]; Jun 1959 [1-3]

2-CD / TT: 155:45

2nd recording of Goldberg Variations BWV 988 by R. Tureck. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London, England.
Review: Young Rosalyn Tureck’s Goldberg Variations
Review: Tureck vs harpsichord in the Goldbergs
Discussions: Goldberg Variations BWV 988 - played by Rosalyn Tureck
Buy this album at: Amazon.com

2

J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations [K-19]

Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Rosalyn Tureck (Piano)

Deutsche Grammophon 459599

Mar 1998

2-CD / TT: 91:10

Recorded at Friedrich-Ebert-Hall, Hamburg-Harburg, Germany.
7th recording of Goldberg Variations BWV 988 by R. Tureck.
Review: Young Rosalyn Tureck’s Goldberg Variations
Review: Tureck vs harpsichord in the Goldbergs
Discussions: Goldberg Variations BWV 988 - played by Rosalyn Tureck
Buy this album at:
2-CD: Amazon.com | Amazon.com

3

J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 [K-2]
J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations / Partita No. 5 (Gould) (1954-55)

Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Glenn Gould (Piano)

Sony
World Classic
Naxos Historical 8.111247

Jun 10, 14 & 16, 1955

CD / TT: 38:40
CD / TT:
CD / TT: 51:47

Recorded at 30th Street Studio, New York City, NY, USA.
2nd recording of Goldberg Variations BWV 988 by G. Gould.
Discussions: Goldberg Variations BWV 988 - played by Glenn Gould
Buy this album at:
Sony CD: Amazon.com | Amazon.com | Amazon.com | Amazon.com
Naxos Music Download: ClassicsOnline

4

Bach: The Goldberg Variations [K-13]

Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Glenn Gould (Piano)

Sony

Apr 22 - May 29, 1981

CD / TT: 51:14

Recorded at 30th Street Studio, New York City, NY, USA.
7th recording of Goldberg Variations BWV 988 by G. Gould.
Discussions: Goldberg Variations BWV 988 - played by Glenn Gould
Buy this album at:
CD: Amazon.com | Amazon.com | Amazon.com | Amazon.com

4

J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations BWV 988 (Edition Bachakademie, Vol. 112) [K-3]

Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Evgeni Koroliov (Piano)

Hänssler 92.112

Apr 25-29, 1999

2-CD / TT: 84:52

Recorded at Festeburgkirche, Frankfurt am Main, Germany. 1st recording of Goldberg Variations BWV 988 by E. Koroliov.
Buy this album at:
CD: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de
Music Download: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | ClassicsOnline

6

Bach: Goldberg Variations - Italian Concerto [K-3]

Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Peter Serkin (Piano)

RCA / BMG

June 1994

CD / TT: 44:30 / 45:03

3rd recording of Goldberg Variations BWV 988 by P. Serkin.
Review: Three Goldbergs
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7

J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations BWV 988 [K-2]

Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Konstantin Lifschitz (Piano)

Denon

Jun 1994

CD / TT: 79:01

Recorded at Moscow Concservatoire Small Hall, Russia.
Review: Goldberg Variations from Lifschitz
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8

J.S. Bach: The Goldberg Variations [K-1]

Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Sergey Schepkin (Piano)

Ongaku Records 024107
Dear Heart 2021

Jan 15, 1995

CD / TT: 71:53

Recorded at Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory, Boston, MA, USA.
Review: Three Goldbergs
Buy this album at:
CD: Amazon.com

9

Maria Yudina: Bach / Beethoven (Great Pianists of the 20th Century) [K-5]

Goldberg Variations BWV 988 [70:55]

Maria Yudina (Piano)

Philips

Jan 1968

2-CD / TT: 142:05

Recorded in Moscow, Russia. Other works: by L.v. Beethoven.
Review: Three Goldbergs
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10

J.S. Bach: Variations Goldberg [K-1]

Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Maria Tipo (Piano)

EMI Classics

Jun 1986

CD / TT: 63:44

Recorded at Salle Wagram, Paris, France.
Buy this album at: Amazon.com | Amazon.com [Box Set] | Amazon.com [Box Set]

11

J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations [K-3]

Goldberg Variations BWV 988

András Schiff (Piano)

Decca / Penguin / London

Dec 1982

CD / TT: 72:20

Recorded at Kingsway Hall, London, England.
1st recording of Goldberg Variations BWV 988 by A. Schiff.
Review: The New and Improved Goldberg Variations from Andras Schiff
Discussions: Goldberg Variations BWV 988 - played by Andras Schiff
Buy this album at:
CD: Amazon.com | Amazon.com | Amazon.com | Amazon.com | Amazon.com

12

Bach: Goldberg Variations [K-7]

Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Angela Hewitt (Piano)

Hyperion

Aug-Sep 1999

CD / TT: 78:32

Recorded at Henry Wood Hall, London, England.
Review: Hewitt’s Goldberg Variations
Buy this album at: Amazon.com

Part 1

Donald Satz wrote (May 5, 2000):
The Goldberg Variations was published in 1741, nine years before Bach's death. The work is based on a single ground theme (the opening aria which is repeated after 30 variations of the single theme) which constitutes a sarabande. The Goldberg Variations is the most commanding and inspired set of variations from the baroque period.

How the work came into being is not really known. The popular story is that a Count Keyserlingk had many sleepless nights, and that he asked Bach to compose some pieces good for sleeping that Goldberg could play in an adjoining room. Bach decided to go with a set of variations because of the sameness of the basic harmony, thinking that this sameness might enhance the Count's sleeping. But, there is no evidence of this scenario; Goldberg was only 14 years old at the time, and Bach gave no subsequent indication that he wrote the work for the Count. There's has also been some debate (often vicious in nature) as to who composed the aria to the work. Regardless of who did what and when, the Goldberg Variations is one of the best known works that Bach composed and one of the true masterpieces of the classical music repertoire.

This survey of piano versions of the Goldbergs is prompted by the release of Angela Hewitt's new recording on Hyperion. The versions surveyed are:

[1] Rosalyn Tureck I - Philips Great Pianists 456979 - 1957.
[2] Rosalyn Tureck II - DG 459599 - 1999.
[3] Glenn Gould I - Sony 52594 - 1955.
[4] Glenn Gould II- Sony 37779 - 1982.
[5] Evgeni Koroliov - Hanssler 92.112 - 1999.
[6] Peter Serkin - RCA 68188 - 1996.
[7] Konstantin Lifschitz - Denon 78961 - 1994.
[8] Sergey Schepkin - Ongaku 024-107 - 1995.
[9] Maria Yudina - Philips Great Pianists 456994 - 1968.
[10] Maria Tipo - EMI 475465 - 1986.
[11] András Schiff - Penguin/Decca 460611 - 1983.
[12] Angela Hewitt - Hyperion 67305 - 1999.

Hewitt faces fierce competition. The Gould versions are classics, the Tureck recordings should be classics, and each of the remaining versions has much to offer. Of course, Gould makes his usual noises, but they don't bother me at all. The sound quality of his 1955 recording is fairly good. I wish I could say the same for Tureck I, but her sound is relatively muffled. Yudina's sound can be fierce. There will be times when I mention various feelings and images I have when listening to particular variations; I want to emphasize that those images come from me, not from Bach (although I might privately enjoy thinking otherwise). Also, since list members have been discussing to a degree the emotional quotient and make-up of the 25th variation (Black Pearl), I will address that subject when I get to the Black Pearl. What I'm most looking forward to is having to differentiate between many excellent and transcendent performances.

The opening aria timings ranged from 4 to 6 minutes except for both Goulds, Tipo and Serkin - repeats are the reason. Significant? I think so. I see the aria as a complete piece of music as well as the foundation for the rest of the work. Without repeats, the aria becomes more of a "short" story. Also, I always get a special sensation when the repeat of the initial theme begins; it's a magical musical moment for me. Having said the above, Serkin delivers an excellent account; it has fine pacing, possesses much beauty, and is throughly enjoyable. I just wish there had been more of it. Gould I is also excellent as he employs his well-known precision and faster tempo. Tipo delivers a very good and fast performance, skipping the 2nd repeat only; her sound is a little hazy. Tureck I has the worst sound, but she gives a commanding and very slow performance; muddy sound and slow pace are not a good combination. Hewitt, Schiff, Yudina, Koroliov, and Lifschitz distinguish themselves well. The only version not of excellent quality comes from Schepkin; his ornamentations are distracting, not particularly musical, and frequent. Now to the two special versions: Tureck II and Gould II. They have much in common: slow pacing, great nuances throughout, a sense at the same time of precision and spontaneity, and perfect bass lines. With both versions, I feel that I'm witnessing the results of a critical analysis of each note. They provide a full-course meal although Gould offers no seconds. Outstanding interpretations.

The first variation is a frisky one with a strong bass line. Tureck I has a slow pace and is illuminating. Also excellent and very similar to one another are Hewitt, Tipo, Koroliov, Lifschitz, and Serkin; each employs a quick and exciting pace. Schepkin, Gould I, Yudina, and Schiff are not very good. Schepkin ha penchant for trills which I found annoying; he needs to stop being fussy and cute. Gould sounds as if he was shot out of a cannon - super fast and a total lack of poetry. Yudina encounters a shrill sound and her speed changes in mid-stream. Schiff is too soft with his right hand, too strong with his left hand, and makes a muddle out of things. That leaves Tureck II and Gould II again as the best renditions. Using slower speeds, they transform the music into an all-encompassing kaleidoscope of notes with a tremendous sense of the counterpoint and pacing; both hands are in perfect unison.

Counterpoint is also a major factor in the second variation. This is beautiful music where the melodies just go off on their own yet always blend perfectly. That's not quite what happens with Lifschitz, Schepkin, Yudina, and Schiff: Lifschitz is fast and ordinary, Schepkin continues with the trills, Yudina is inconsistent in pacing, and Schiff is too fussy. Hewitt and Serkin give excellent performances just a little short of outstanding; they don't quite display the perfection of the counterpoint or provide a particularly compelling conception. I have six versions which are fantastic. Gould I flies through the variation with a precision and artistry which is something to behold. Gould II gives us a perfect unison of the counterpoint and an infectious rhythm with a slow pace. Tipo provides a beautiful dream-like reading in an acoustic to match. Tureck I adopts the slowest tempo and transforms the variation into one of reflection and depth; her counterpoint is outstanding and you don't want to miss how she handles the series of descending notes throughout the piece. Tureck II is almost as slow as Tureck I and equally as good with the counterpoint and descending notes; Although not as reflective, Tureck II has a bounce to it which lifts the spirits. Koroliov makes the variation into great "good-time" music which can't help but bring a smile to your lips; recorded sound is exceptional. This is exceptional music which is so adaptable to varying conceptions.

I essentially see the fourth variation as music of serenity although tinged with some sadness and regret. This contrast of mood provides much enjoyment. A fast pace tends to lessen those qualities; it also lessens the enjoyment of listening to the consistently interesting bass line as it interacts with the right hand. Five versions provide those qualities in full measure: Lifschtiz, Serkin, Tureck I, Tureck II, and Hewitt. Lifschtiz's performance is particularly noteworthy since he does employ a fast pace. The remaining versions are good; Schepkin keeps the trills to a minimum (for him).

Tureck II has hit the bulls-eye every time; her counterpoint, bass lines, conceptions, flow, etc. are all wonderful. Tureck I also appears relevatory although she has to deal with only fair sound. Of the two Goulds, Gould II is displaying a greater command and intimacy of Bach's idiom. Hewitt is doing very well, much better than her Inventions recording. Yudina is surprising me a little; she likes to vary tempo within a variation, and I'm starting to feel that she is giving more a performance of herself than of Bach. Koroliov, Serkin, and Tipo have been at Hewitt's level. Schepkin is exhibiting mannerisms which were not part of his WTC or Partitas discs. Lifschitz is showing potential, and Schiff tends to lose sight of musically beneficial proportions.

 

Continue to Part 2

Goldberg Variations BWV 988: Details
Recordings:
Until 1950 | 1951-1960 | 1961-1970 | 1971-1980 | 1981-1990 | 1991-2000 | From 2001
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Quodlibet in GV | GV for Strings
Discussions of Individual Recordings:
GV - Barenboim | GV - P.J. Belder | GV - E. Dershavina | GV - Egarr | GV - Feltsman | GV - C. Frisch | GV - Gould | GV - Hantaï | GV - R. Holloway | GV - J. Jando | GV - Jarrett | GV - Leonhardt | GV - V. Makin | GV - A. Newman | GV - S. Ross | GV Schiff | GV - R. Schirmer | GV - H. Small | GV - G. Sultan | GV - G. Toth | GV - Tureck | GV - Vartolo | GV - Verlet
Review: Goldberg Variations on Piano:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
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 - Cole | GV - Crossland | GV - Dershavina | GV - Egarr [Lehman] | GV - Egarr [Satz] | GV - Egarr [Bright] | GV- Hantai | GV - Hantaï (2nd) | GV - Haugsand | GV - Hewitt | GV - Holloway | GV- Ingolfsdottir | GV - Jando | GV - Leonhardt | GV- Lifschitz | GV - Newman | GV - Nikolayeva 3rd | GV- Payne | GV - Schepkin, Yudina & Serkin | GV - Schiff [ECM] | GV- Small | GV - Suzuki | GV - Toth | GV - Trich | GV - Tureck (Satz) | GV - Tureck (Lehman) | GV- Verlet | GV - Vieru | GV - Vinikour | GV - Weissenberg | GV - Zhu
Article:
The Quodlibet as Represented in Bach’s Final Goldberg Variation BWV 988/30 [by Thomas Braatz]

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Last update: ýNovember 1, 2006 ý02:56:23