The young pianist who blew everyone away at the GRAMMYs recorded Bach's Goldberg Variations as label debut. The Korean-born, US-trained pianist known simply as Ji is very much a classical musician for the 21st century. Having won the New York Philharmonic’s Young Artists Competition at the age of just 10, he went on to study at the prestigious Juilliard School. Described by the Chicago Tribune as “a gifted, sensitive young pianist who is clearly going places,” he has chosen Bach’s sublime Goldberg Variations for his debut on Warner Classics. “Classical music is never going away,” he says, “We live in very modern world, and it’s our job to live in the moment, but it’s also our job to respect and preserve tradition.”
Für den kaiserlichen Gesandten in Dresden, Hermann Graf Keyserlingk, sollen die Goldberg-Variationen entstanden sein. Der Graf habe, wie Bach-Biograph Nikolaus Forkel schreibt, die Musik bei Bach bestellt in der Hoffnung, „daß er dadurch in seinen schlaflosen Nächten ein wenig aufgeheitert werden könnte.“ Diese Bearbeitung der Goldberg-Variationen für zwei Gamben setzt die Reihe der schon bestehenden Transkriptionen fort.
Hearing an album of Bach arias sung by a countertenor may not be essential for every listener. Many of the high arias from Bach's cantatas weren't the kind of operatic pieces that called for a muscular male voice comparable to those that have tackled Handel's arias in similar collections, and Bach, at least much of the time, wrote for female vocalists. If you enjoy countertenor singing, however, this release by Canadian singer Daniel Taylor may be the Bach album of choice.
Bach’s Goldberg Variations have played a central role in harpsichordist Pierre Hantai’s musical life since his early youth. At 28 he recorded the work for the Opus 111 label (now available on Naïve), a highly acclaimed release that stands among the work’s choice versions. Over the past 11 years Hantai evidently has rethought and refined his interpretation, as revealed in this 2003 remake. There’s greater rhythmic freedom and variety of articulation, plus a more subjective approach to ornaments and agogics, especially in the repeats (he observes all but those in Variation 15, 25, and the Aria Da Capo; the 1992 recording honors all repeats save for Variation 25). Variations previously characterized through Hantai’s seamless legato technique (Nos. 3, 6, 8, 11, 17, and 18, for example) are further enlivened by detaché finger strokes and more inflected phrasings. The latter infuse Variations 7, 10, and 16 with greater resilience and rhythmic verve than their earlier counterparts.