Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Bach's Goldberg Variations, with Beatrice Rana

From my young years, I always knew Beethoven's Diabelli variations, but Bach's Goldberg variations were just a name to me until a lot later in life, when I heard a recording by Tatiana Nikolayeva (that an American friend found “too Romantic”). I still have that recording, plus many others. Glenn Gould never found favour with me: too much Gould, not enough Bach. Recently, I thought I had found my all-time favourite version with Igor Levit.

Levit comes across as superb, classical, and objective. Listening to Levit playing Bach, Beethoven and Mozart, it is difficult to imagine him playing Chopin, or Rachmaninov. Having greatly admired the young Italian Beatrice Rana in Tchaikovsky, I was curious to hear what she made of Bach's Goldberg variations. I bought the CD, and listened with interest. I confess to being completely enchanted and captivated by her playing of Bach's thirty variations. She makes no attempt to enter the sound world of a fusty cantor of early eighteenth century Saxony. Listening to her Bach, it is easy to imagine her playing Chopin or Rachmaninov. She revels in Bach's music and I once again had the heretical thought that there is music that is more suited to young players, rather than mature elderly practitioners. Beatrice Rana is only 23 years old (even Levit was not yet 30 when he recorded the Goldbergs). Yet another superb young pianist to listen to at every possible opportunity. The Diabelli variations, next? I know that her Goldberg variations will now always be my favourite version; poor, wonderful Igor Levit sounds somewhat dry in comparison.

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