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 Post subject: Bach - Goldberg Variations
PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2012 10:45 pm 
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Joined: Sun Nov 30, 2008 1:11 am
Posts: 489
Location: Lyon, France
Dear All,
After my recent moving, I have found some old cassettes, and I had the curiosity to listen some of them to see how they were supporting years. Some are in quite a good shape, and other are degrading slowly. Among those ones, I have transferred and remixed a recording I made 20 years ago on my computer: the legendary Goldberg Variations. I think I spent about 18 months studying and learning this paramount chef-d'oeuvre, and after one (private) concert I made a recording during a week-end, with my old portable Sony cassette recorder. Of course, I had no way to make cuts at this time, so that there are a number of slips from place to place. Also the sound is of (sometimes less than) average quality, especially at the beginning where the cassette displayed some 'wow'. In spite of those technical defects, I wonder wether you would find the recording worth uploading. Hence there is no complete version of the Goldberg on PS (to date). Thanks for listening this archive !

P.S.
Upon decision of the administrators, I could provide more details on the structure of the pieces to add on the Goldberg page.


Bach - BWV 988 - Goldberg Variations - Part I (19:46)
Bach - BWV 988 - Goldberg Variations - Part II (20:59)

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"Je préfère ce qui me touche que ce qui me surprend"
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 Post subject: Re: Bach - Goldberg Variations
PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 2:33 am 
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Location: Springfield, Missouri, USA
Francois,
I am torn by two impulses here. In the first, I would hold that any submission of this magnificant work should be nothing less than a perfect performance and a perfect recording. But in the second, though your performance of the work has an occasional (rare) mild slip here and there, you have done an extraordinary work and accomplishment, and I would hate for that to go unrecognized! Also, as old as the sound was on tape, I find it sufficiently acceptable to hear and appreciate the beauty of Bach. Thank you so much! I hope it is uploaded.

Best,
Eddy

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"A smattering will not do. They must know all the keys, major and minor, and they must literally 'know them backwards.'" - Josef Lhevinne


Last edited by musical-md on Wed Mar 14, 2012 4:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - Goldberg Variations
PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 2:50 am 
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Location: Toronto
I don't care about the quality of the recording.

I don't care about the quality of the instrument.

I don't care about the technical boo boos.

This is a masterful, absolutely masterful interpretation and performance.

Glorious. Stunning.

So few decent, much less inspired recordings of this music.

So few to be had for love or money. Just a lot of pretenders... all the usual suspects.

But this is the real deal... right here at Piano Society.

I am completely bowled over!

Oh, yes, I forgot to mention .... I have heard pretty much ALL the recordings ever made on the piano of this piece .... and I (personally) would put this right up there with Gould 1, 2, and 3, as well as my other favourite Ekaterina Dershavina's little known recording.

Much as I like and respect the others (Hewitt, Dinnerstein, Arrau, Rosen, etc., etc., etc., etc.....) this interpretation is on a much higher plane musically.

Damn the torpedoes. This is just brilliant stuff.

JG


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 Post subject: Re: Bach - Goldberg Variations
PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 4:05 am 
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Admins: That's TWO votes FOR so far! :D

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"A smattering will not do. They must know all the keys, major and minor, and they must literally 'know them backwards.'" - Josef Lhevinne


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 Post subject: Re: Bach - Goldberg Variations
PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 6:05 am 
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Location: Connecticut, USA
Francois,

I would echo the others in saying kudos for the accomplishment. And it would be very nice to see a complete recording of this seminal Bach work on the site for reference. However, I would have some reservations about this recording. The slips don't bother me as much as some of the unevennesses and tempo deviations from variation to variation. The aria was very well played, with musical phrasing and good control, but then it seemed to turn into a bit of a struggle in the variations (the tempo didn't sound secure to me, and some of the fingerwork passages sounded a bit sloppy and flubbed.

I hate to be a naysayer, and I know it's nice to find an old recording from one's past, but it does seem like in a work this well-known, some of the passages will stick out like a sore thumb.

Just my opinion of course. I'm not trying to be nitpicking, just trying to articulate what I'm hearing. Certainly fine if you and others say I'm talking nonsense :P

Joe

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - Goldberg Variations
PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:36 am 
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I am not enough of a Goldberg expert to gauge whether JLG's exalted praise is justified. Buy I fully agree this is a masterful performance. It combines complete authority with palpable joy of playing. I agree with Joe that there are some issues but I do not find them in any way distracting. On the contrary, it gives this mountainous and sacrosanct work a very human face. While I heard numerous slips, misreadings, and assorted little problems,
the words sloppy and flubbed never came to my mind. The positive qualities far outweigh the few negative ones. It occurred to me that you sound
like a 'big' player who consistently projects a strong tone. It was perhaps played on a large concert grand ?

The sound may be a bit boxy, wavery and prone to clipping, but it's not at all bad. One quickly gets used to it and I still much prefer this above most of the anodyne digital sound we get these days.

To sum up, an awesome recording which should surely go on the site even if it's not spit-polish perfect. The only thing I am not sure about
is the formatting into two large chunks. I would much prefer having all the variations in separate mp3's, named and tagged acoring to the rules.
Can you do that Francois ?

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - Goldberg Variations
PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 3:33 pm 
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Location: Connecticut, USA
Quote:
and I still much prefer this above most of the anodyne digital sound we get these days.


Sorry to go OT, but did you mean "anodyne" here? I thought anodyne meant having a calming or soothing effect, which would seem strange to me, knowing how you feel about digital pianos :P.

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - Goldberg Variations
PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 3:42 pm 
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Re my over-the-top praise: are there technical snafus? Absolutely. But only in the narrow sense of that word.

As for the tempi, moving from one Variation to the next: perfect.

It very much feels to me as if the whole was recorded in one take. I find (my taste only) the tempi spot on.

JG


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 Post subject: Re: Bach - Goldberg Variations
PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 3:54 pm 
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jlr43 wrote:
Sorry to go OT, but did you mean "anodyne" here? I thought anodyne meant having a calming or soothing effect, which would seem strange to me, knowing how you feel about digital pianos :P.

Huh, dunno what I was thinking. I meant to say anaemic, in the sense of bloodless.

johnlewisgrant wrote:
Re my over-the-top praise: are there technical snafus? Absolutely. But only in the narrow sense of that word.
As for the tempi, moving from one Variation to the next: perfect.
It very much feels to me as if the whole was recorded in one take. I find (my taste only) the tempi spot on.

I agree with all that. There could perhaps have been a bit more variation in tempi, some fast vars could have been more relaxed. But it's quite a moot point.

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - Goldberg Variations
PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 4:00 pm 
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Location: Springfield, Missouri, USA
techneut wrote:
The only thing I am not sure about
is the formatting into two large chunks. I would much prefer having all the variations in separate mp3's, named and tagged acoring to the rules.
Can you do that Francois ?

No! I disagree strongly with this and hope you will relent. It is a pain in the *** to have to download and start every single individual variation of this work and would absolutely ruin the experience of listening to it. PLEASE don't require it! There is much artistry in how the performer moves from one variation to the next that will be obliterated if it is broken up. It's sort of like asking to take a triptych, separate it into it's individual panels, frame each with a thick ornate frame and then hang on the wall with considerable space in between. Please don't do it.

Disclaimer: I will soon be submitting Rameau's Gavotte et six doubles (7' total) which would be equally and similarly marred and hope the same for it.

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Eddy M. del Rio, MD
"A smattering will not do. They must know all the keys, major and minor, and they must literally 'know them backwards.'" - Josef Lhevinne


Last edited by musical-md on Thu Mar 15, 2012 4:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - Goldberg Variations
PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 4:15 pm 
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Location: Toronto
Eddy is absolutely right about splitting up this GV. The fact is that the pro recordings SUFFER from exactly this defect: they sound as if they have been individually nipped and tucked (and quite probably they have been). Not a bad thing, necessarily; but in this instance we have an interpretation that coheres quite profoudly as a whole.

JG


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 Post subject: Re: Bach - Goldberg Variations
PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 4:34 pm 
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Yes good point folks. We should be using indexed mp3's or something but I have never investigated that.
So let it be two parts. Less work :D

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 Post subject: Re: Bach - Goldberg Variations
PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 4:41 pm 
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:D :D :D

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"A smattering will not do. They must know all the keys, major and minor, and they must literally 'know them backwards.'" - Josef Lhevinne


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 Post subject: Re: Bach - Goldberg Variations
PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2012 8:19 am 
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Joined: Sun Nov 30, 2008 1:11 am
Posts: 489
Location: Lyon, France
Hello everybody,
Sorry to answer so late, but I had a busy week

Eddy:
Thanks very much for your support, and your indulgence regarding my poor cassette tape !
Also, you save me quite a long time in voting against Chris' suggestion of cutting each variation from the whole bunch ! Finally I am looking forward to hearing your Rameau pieces. The 'Gavotte variée' was my first experience in this field, and I have a special tenderness for it...

JG:
I am just becoming all red reading your first post :oops: ! Maybe your enthusiasm comes from Bach much more than from my modest interpretation ? Maybe you hadn't listened this extraordinary music for some years, and your reunion with the Goldberg family is blowing you up? By the way, since the time when I recorded them, I kept the memory of an unsatisfactory work, with plenty of flaws. It is only because I was rather surprised that they were not so bad that I dared submitting them to PS; of course my indulgence came from the great joy of being 'back to Bach', feeling that the Cantor's music is something we should never leave for long - an opinion probably shared by others here at PS ! Anyway, many thanks: your feedback gives me motivation to spend another 20 years practicicing alone in my cave !

Chris:
Also many thanks for your kind appreciation, from (one of) the first Bach's disciple at PS. As usual, your view is very sharp and balanced in your judgement. As for the question of cutting or keeping the variations together, I agree with Eddy's opinion, not only because of my lazinness. Even if each variation can be considered as a consistent, self-bearing work, one must take a good part of the tour to really access to this paradisiac world. Actually the global structure of the Goldberg is a magnificent architecture, with progressions in the Canons series - I will post you an addendum to the presentation - that you loose if you only pick variations frome place to place. But the Cantor knew that it could be difficult for the listener to stay still during 40, or even 80 minutes without moving*. So that the natural way of listening the Goldberg is really to start by the first half, which terminates by a slow, meditative and minor mood variation. Then, after a rest - did Bach invent the modern concert interval ? - you come back into the Goldberg through an 'Ouverture à la française' (here my national pride can only be excited !), and you get (hopefully) an even higher emotional experience. Note that 20' + 20' is more or less the format of the old LPs, which was in my opinion much closer to the human metabolism than the full 1-hour CD duration.
To come back to the ideal listening format of Goldbergs, I wouldn't be of the same opinion for the Well-Tempered Clavier, that I had always found paramount, but difficult to hear in continuity.

Joe:
Thank you to bring some contradiction in this otherwise too consensual debate ! Regarding the tempo:
- within a variation, I may accelerate a little. I agree this is something that can be criticized. Fortunately, I find now that I can sustain a more stable tempo in this kind of pieces, probably an effect of aging and loosing a part of youth impetuosity...
- from one variation to another one: I don't know what is the state-of-the-art among the musicologist community - I know there have been many progresses in the last 30 years about how this music was played by the ancients. But my personnal listener experience is the following: it is agreable to hear changes and contrasts, provided, of course, that they are compatible with the music, rather than hearing a long and uniform series of pieces played at the same strength and same tempo. If Bach gave little or no indication in terms of tempi and dynamics and attacks etc., this is IMO to let the performer taking options. Of course, the good taste must lead him. What is good taste ? Big question...

A last question not addressed by any of you to date: the repetitions ('reprise' in French, not sure about the correct translation). For a live performance, my opinion is that they must be played, since, for the listener, and given the density and the perfection of this music, the pleasure you get is double at the second listening of each half-variation. Glenn Gould never played it. As for recordings, I have mixed views in this field. I wonder about yours...
Of cours, with repetitions, the Goldberg last about one hour and half, filling a whole concert program.

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"Je préfère ce qui me touche que ce qui me surprend"
François Couperin (1668-1733)


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 Post subject: Re: Bach - Goldberg Variations
PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2012 8:33 am 
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Francois de Larrard wrote:
As for the question of cutting or keeping the variations together, I agree with Eddy's opinion, not only because of my lazinness.

Haha, but I'm not off your back yet !
What I would like you to do is write up the exact list of variations, along with the time where they all start. That way someone who wants to hear a particular variation can jump to it by dragging their slider to that point in time.
I wish we'd have something like YouTube, where inserting a timestamp like 1:23 automagically creates a link to that point in the video.
This is probably not possible for mp3's, though would be great if it were.

Yes it makes much sense to split the Goldbergs in these two halves. It makes you wonder whether Bach did perform it in public, or have that in his mind when composing.

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