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S Bach: ‘Goldberg’ Variations played by Steven Devine

“Devine brings a scholarly authority to this pillar of the repertoire….”

J S Bach: ‘Goldberg’ Variations

CD reviews….

         “He brings a scholarly authority to this pillar of the repertoire, offering in his sleeve notes many insights into Bach’s thinking behind the 30 variations, an authority he matches with a masterly technique at the keyboard, turning this into a bravura display of the harpsichordist’s art. Highly recommended.” The Observer

         “Devine gives the impression of always having the room he needs to allow the music, its ornamentation and its sometimes devilish figuration to breath comfortably…Devine has the technique, the imagination and the mastery of period style to give a thoroughly satisfying performance…Devine’s reading is worthy of consideration alongside other distinguished recent traversals” Gramophone

        “Steven Devine presents Bach’s most ambitious harpsichord composition, the ‘Goldberg’ Variations, and also writes the informative accompanying CD booklet notes.

His detailed preparation is evident throughout from the opening Aria to the last of the 30 variations. As you would expect from Bach, these variations place many musical demands on the harpsichordist and as I would expect from Steven, he rises to all of the virtuosic challenges with consummate ease.  Devine’s performance on the Chandos label is a worthy addition to the many available recordings of this notoriously difficult work.” Colchester Gazette

Order Chandos 0780 @ £12.25* or as part of our 3 CDs for £33* Chandos offer

CD notes….

The ‘Goldberg’ Variations by Bach are considered among the most commanding and inspired sets of variations of any period, and one of the most ambitious compositions ever written for harpsichord.

They are performed here by Steven Devine on a double-manual harpsichord by Colin Booth (2000) after Fleischer (1710). The co-director of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Devine also plays the harpsichord with The Gonzaga Band and London Baroque, and has been performing Bach’s Variations extensively in the UK.

The ‘Goldberg’ Variations begin with a highly embellished but unpretentious Aria, around which Bach builds a series of thirty variations that range from the high-spirited to the introspective. The epic scope of this work is not only a consequence of its length, but also of the enormous variety that is presented here – in terms of both style and mood – and of the way the whole piece is held together by the constant underlying theme of the opening Aria. The variations were very advanced for their time, looking forward to the much later ‘Diabelli’ Variations by Beethoven as well as the ‘Corelli’ Variations by Rachmaninoff.

The set of thirty variations was supposedly commissioned by Baron von Keiserling, the Russian ambassador to the Dresden court, to help him get through his many nights of insomnia, and named after the baron’s harpsichordist, who played them. However, as the set was published in 1741, and Goldberg was born in 1727, unless he was an exceptionally talented harpsichordist, the more likely explanation was that Bach wrote them for his son Wilhelm Friedemann to play, and perhaps donated a few to the young Goldberg.

Whatever the truth of its origins, there is no denying the exceptional excellence of the work. In the words of Steven Devine: ‘This is a wonderful collection of dance movements, interspersed with passionate cannons and virtuosic hand-crossings, all framed by a simple unpretentious Aria.”

Order Chandos 0780 @ £12.25* or as part of our 3 CDs for £33* Chandos offer

 To order  please ring 0800 999 6994 or  email liz@colchesterclassics.co.uk or use the contact form below

*UK +P&P of £1.50 for the 1st CD (UK delivery) and 50p thereafter to a maximum of £3. Europe and Rest of the World P&P – please enquire

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