Bach: Goldberg Variations

I had the score of the Goldberg Variations on my piano for twenty years before I dared open it.  I’d always played a lot of Bach, ever since I was a little girl; but somehow the reputation of this piece intimidated me, so I got on with playing his other works – partitas, preludes and fugues, French suites and concertos, even the Art of Fugue (which is very daunting).

Finally I opened the first page, to the Aria. G major is very kind, benevolent key, and the opening is intimate and confiding; the early variations are sunny, warm, humorous. Rather a like a cliffhanging plot, each variation somehow contains the seeds of the next one, until you’re drawn into the deepest part of a labyrinth; the music grows complex, and turns dark, weary, tragic. But holding tightly onto the thread, we’re out again, back with domestic life, singing the Aria once more. The music is the same, but we have changed.’

Bach’s greatest solo keyboard masterpiece, recorded in Salzburg’s Mozarteum.

…then came one of the day’s highlights: pianist Joanna MacGregor’s exceptional interpretation of the Goldberg Variations. With her tone as poised as it was subtly refined, she explored the many planes on which Bach’s structure operates, highlighting its protean variety of texture in a performance that touched the sublime.

Royal Albert Hall, The Guardian 2013

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