Jeremy Denk’s Goldberg Variations

 

File Under Best CDs of 2013

J.S. Bach

Goldberg Variations

Jeremy Denk, piano

Nonesuch CD

 

Pianist Jeremy Denk is a versatile and thoughtful artist. But any pianist, no matter how prodigious his or her skills, must view recording the Goldberg Variations as a Mount Parnassus type of achievement. So many fine recordings already exist – do we need more? Denk’s rendition suggests there is room aplenty for new interpretations of this late work by J.S. Bach.

I recently played several versions of the piece for students of mine who were studying it. They were all impressed by Glenn Gould’s virtuosity, but suggested that he sounded like “a client of Walter White” in terms of tempo choices. Like me, they instead found Denk’s tempi to be “Goldilocks choices:” just right. He is sensitive to the overall pacing of the suite and provides the piece with a long range trajectory that allows for moments of delicacy and others in which the counterpoint flies fast and furious. There is a rhythmic suppleness to his playing that is most attractive. Another reason this is a “Goldilocks choice”: Denk is not trying to fool you into hearing a harpsichord, but his piano-playing is informed by period practice. That won’t make some of the more intransigent purists on either side happy, but to me it sounds “just right.”

-Christian Carey

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s