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Gilded Goldbergs

Robin Holloway Audio CD
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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3.0 out of 5 stars
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1.0 out of 5 stars Dissipating our attention... Nov. 7 2003
Format:Audio CD
It is easy nowadays to buy and listen to professionally played and recorded classical compositions which are merely mediocre or stereotyped. It is less common to hear a recording which verges on being unlistenable to those who love the original, but that is what "Gilded Goldbergs" is. This version of Bach's masterpiece neither heightens nor extends the experience of it. The Goldberg Variations embody one of the signature dimensions of Bach's music: that at virtually every moment of the piece, the whole architecture is represented or signified. In a sense, all of Bach's music is a form of synecdoche, in which each part stands for the full creation. Metaphysically this echoes St. Augustine's famous statement about God: "He loves each of us, as if there were only one of us." So the structure of Bach's music is both supple and exacting; it crystallizes our attention, instead of dissipating it, like most modern media. But the essence of Bach is drowned in "Gilded Goldbergs", which doesn't so much interpret the original as exploit it, producing a kind of drive-by piano excursion that speeds up and slows down but goes nowhere in particular. Bach's music almost always manages to do two things at once: focus us on the microcosmic line, and enlarge our perception to embrace the macrocosmic purpose of music itself. "Gilded Goldbergs" does neither.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Holloway's Goldberg MetaVariations April 5 2003
Format:Audio CD
What a creative idea: to write a variation on each of the Goldberg Variations! But that's not what Robin Holloway initially intended to do. He admits that he was so stumped at his own clumsy attempts to play the Goldbergs at his own piano that he had the idea to clarify the counterpoint, so entangled in the two-hand version, by recasting the more complex variations for two pianos. As he proceeded (and got willing partners to play them over with him) he and his partners had such fun that he got charged up to recast all the variations, even the ones which were not so complicated. (He was not aware that Joseph Rheinberger - Liechtenstein's only significant composer! - had made a two-piano version in the 1880s.) Over a period of about six years, and in hiatuses between his other more 'serious' composing chores, he added more and more meta-variations until he was finally finished in late 1997.
The variations written fairly early in this 'adventure,' (as Holloway terms it), do not wander far from their models; indeed, they could be considered transcriptions. But as the spirit of adventure and challenge spurred him on he began taking more and more daring liberties. Since he didn't write the meta-variations in order, the more sedate variations are interspersed amongst the more elaborate ones. Thus, the complete set has reassuringly old-fashioned 'raisins' spread throughout the wild rice pudding. And it makes for a satisfying meal.
There are some stylistic comments to be made. One recurring technique in the more liberal variations is a quirky shift of key, sometimes in mid-phrase, and sometimes the modulations raise the harmonic tension at that same time that one smiles at what sounds like the pianists going off the rails.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Rather disappointing March 17 2003
Format:Audio CD
When I read the review of this record in "Gramophone" I was interested and excited. Wow! "Gilded" Goldbergs! Must be something like Liszt's Bach transcriptions times two, right? Unfortunately, wrong. What arrived was a very modern composition indeed, one at times of astonishing ugliness. This is a very 20th century composition, more chromed or aluminum Goldbergs than gilded. It's Bach as seen through Schoenberg, not Liszt or Busoni. I admit I'm guilty of bringing preconceptions to a work of art, but I was disappointed with this composition. In any case, this is not a work to which I'll return with much eagerness. Maybe other listeners can convince me to try again.
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