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“Bach has always been a great passion of mine,” says US-born, French-trained pianist Nicholas Angelich, probably best known as an interpreter of the German Romantics, and described by Gramophone as “a formidable player … whose performances … are of a wholly exceptional drama, sweep and impeccable craftsmanship.”
Now Angelich has recorded one of the landmarks of the Baroque keyboard repertoire, Bach’s magnificent Goldberg Variations, adding to a Virgin Classics discography which currently reflects The Guardian’s description of the pianist as “a master Brahmsian”.
“Bach is more central than ever to my life. Bach purifies me: he offers me a new view on life, never mind what he brings in purely pianistic terms … I strongly believe that a musician should do different things … He should explore! The pianistic language of each composer is a miracle, a world in itself … I find it the most exciting aspect of a pianist’s work, to engage with the way the great masters expressed themselves through the instrument, the bond each of them has with the piano, to identify their fingerprints on the keyboard.
“I’ve worked on Bach a lot since I was teenager --- I feel that every pianist should make the most of Bach, since he really makes you think – about your sound, your technique, your approach to harmony, to form and how you listen to the music. Bach is fundamental. And, for me, he is a need. I need to play his music for my sake. There are some things that are essential for artistic enrichment.”
In a complex and monumental work like the Goldberg Variations – comprising an aria and 30 variations and lasting well over an hour – a satisfactory balance between overall architecture and structural detail is a vital factor. As Angelich says: “It is very important to take the score and ask yourself good questions about it …The more you look into it over the course of time, the more new fresh details you will see. It is a great thing, to see both the whole, the global structure, and the inside, with its often quite minor details. This enables you to grasp, to reconcile the connection between the big picture, the overall framework, and the inner detailing of the piece. If you are doing something in your interpretation – in a certain line – that might perhaps sound beautiful in a way, but which has no connection to the whole, then something is plainly not right. We always try to find out what sounds right and what is right. Is this a kind of intellectual exercise? Maybe, but I would say that it is also a matter of instinct, with the score as the leading voice for the interpretation.”
Goldberg Variations BWV 988: Aria da capo - Andante espressivo
17th June 2011
“Angelich loves the austere geometry of the canonic variations, and the great G minor variation is unusually understated, but no less moving for that.”
“This, in short, is a distinguished Goldberg, one to live with”
“He plays with an austere, reverential touch, stately momentum and unwaveringly precise rhythm even when prestissimo. All repeats are in. He uses little rubato, but rallentandos every movement, sometimes so finally, you forget he's continuing...Angelich's entry into a crowded market is already up with the leaders.”
“in Angelich's hands [the Goldbergs] seem to have a ripe autumnal quality that we routinely associate with late Brahms, especially the musing pieces which this pianist plays so wonderfully”
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