Pianist Kimiko Ishizaka has recorded BWV 988 and in the spirit of openness, you can access the recording for free. I'll let you read all about the project on their website, but here are few details: * Recorded on a Bösendorfer piano * Professionally recorded * Free score in PDF format (and app for iPad, if you'd like the music to scroll-along as you listen) * Over $23,000 US was pledged to fund the project First, I love the concept of offering such a resource to the public domain: a recording, a score, and details about how it call came about. And Bach's Goldberg Variations is worth having in the public domain. It's one of Bach's formidable works that is one of western society's musical treasures.
But—how good is the recording? As a reader of Chris Anderson's book Free, I know what can happen when something is offered at no cost. The psychological impact, perhaps the initial one, is one of devaluation. No matter the quality of the playing, am I going to listen to it when I have more "valuable" versions already in my collection? As in "valuable" meaning I paid money for them? I should start by saying I really like the sound quality. I was able to download the files in FLAC format and I next converted them to Apple Lossless. I've got CD-quality sound, and it's worth it, because both the instrument and the recording session are tops. There are some things to consider with a project like this. This is completely, 100% my conjecture on it, because I think it informs the musical result. 1. You are about to record a reference version of an important, well-known, and often-recorded piece of piano literature. 2. What's most critical about your performance? Clarity? Your own interpretive signature? The accessibility of the piece for a wide audience? 3. How do you want this project (as opposed to the performance) to be received? For me, this would likely introduce constraints on the performance. Suddenly the performance, as a key aspect of this project, is not as much about me, as it is the presentation of Bach's music. That's not silly, metaphysical voodoo, either. Is this "my" statement of Bach, or "a" presentation of Bach that's at once clear, accessible, and even instructional? I am reminded of Keith Jarrett's playing of Bach's WTC I on piano, which I own. Having enjoyed his jazz, I was so profoundly disappointed with his Bach. It was so reserved and so "not himself," that the music was presented plain vanilla. I remember either his notes or an interview with him saying he wanted "Jarrett" to get out the way, and the music of Bach to take over. And that's an aesthetic, for sure. Happily, Ishizaka did not pull a Jarrett on us. She does possess a style and there is a communication of her ideas about the music. Yet, it's also tame in some regards. And I don't blame her. This is a version of Bach's Goldberg Variations for the people. It's their Bach, to be savored without a lot of color. And that's where Jarrett was right. Bach's music is a tower on its own. If it were a dish to eat, we might think of strong interpretive ideas to be the in form of extra spices or seasonings, or worse, garnishes. Instead, this version of the Goldbergs is lightly seasoned, but just enough to leave an appetizing entrée. Ishizaka is a gifted player with all the requisite chops to technically pull-off BWB 988. I think most people will enjoy this. And for all of those that do, if you want to go further, there are thankfully many more renditions where folks did have something to add. There was the Canadian Gould who made a show piece out of the work. There's Feltsman who thought it was okay to re-write parts of it, to suit his modern piano. And don't get me started on the sundry arrangements for string soloists, orchestras, and now viols. No, this is neither eccentric nor vanilla. But it's safe enough to escape dialog about the performer. Which in the end, with a project like this, may have been the most intelligent thing to do. Recommended!