This morning listening to one of the Big Musical Finds of recent years, a recording of J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations by a string orchestra led by, and playing an arrangement by, Dmitry Sitkovetsky. The recording is EMI 79341-2, and Sitkovetsky is a Russian violinist of whom I really know nothing beyond this recording and arrangement. It's an astounding, beautiful, fiery performance. The variations were written for keyboard (the story goes, for Goldberg, personal musician to a Polish aristrocrat, to play to lull his employer to sleep; don't know if this is true) but after you listen to this it seems obvious that Bach must have had a string orchestra in his mind.

Sitkovetsky has also done a small-group arrangement, and we heard this performed last year by a pickup quartet here in Vancouver; it lacked the force of the orchestra but was beautiful and entertaining . Some of this stuff is fast and the performers were being pushed right to their technical limits, which made it all more dramatic.

Obviously, when you think Goldberg, you think Glenn Gould, and if you don't know what all the fuss is about, you might want to pick up his 1955 hell-for-leather charge through the Goldbergs, which launched his career - someone I read said it sounded like he had two brains.

In poking around before writing this I stumbled on the J.S. Bach Home Page, which is a labour of love, but needs a bit of work, it's all organized by BWV number so the Goldbergs are at http://www.jsbach.org/988.html, this seems clever except for a lot of the links are just broken and point at the wrong number.


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picture of the day
March 02, 2003
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