August 30, 2009

BONGO BACH:

Bach’s ‘Goldberg’ as You’ve Never Heard It (VIVIEN SCHWEITZER, 8/30/09, NY Times)

BACH, though an energetic transcriber of other composers’ music, could never have imagined the stampede of arrangers his own scores would attract in a distant future. His “Goldberg” Variations, written for a two-manual harpsichord in 1742, have been widely coveted since Glenn Gould’s landmark 1955 recording on the piano: interpreted and misinterpreted by pianists, jazz trios, guitarists, accordionists, saxophone quartets and others. Now two harpists and a marimba player have entered the fray with recordings of their own transcriptions.

You have to think that Bach would appreciate the inventiveness of Pius Cheung’s version, billed as the first recording of the “Goldberg” Variations on marimba. With the marimba coming into its own as a solo instrument, it was only a matter of time before an enterprising player laid hands on the work. In booklet notes for the recording, released independently, Mr. Cheung, a young Chinese-Canadian virtuoso, writes that the piece is “incredibly difficult” to play on the instrument. But he surmounts the contrapuntal hurdles and offers a stylish, deeply expressive interpretation notable for its clear voicing, eloquent phrasing and wide range of color and dynamics.


Posted by Orrin Judd at August 30, 2009 7:33 AM
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