Goldberg, and more.


  • Bach: Goldberg Variations BWV 988
  • Beethoven: Diabelli Variations, Op. 120
  • Brahms: Handel Variations, Op. 24

I listened to this DVD very carefully yesterday, and I found the music to be really amazing. And my wonder was two-fold: First, from the composition standpoint; and second, from the view of how challenging it is to perform all three of these works.

The Bach Goldberg Variations is presented first, as the oldest work composed. Like so many of you, I have enjoyed Glenn Gould’s interpretation that was first issued in the 1950’s.

Bach composed these works to help his patron Count Keyserlingk overcome his insomnia. It was up to the Count’s harpsichordist, Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, to perform this music. And it works; I love to go to sleep with this music.

Beethoven went to work to create 33 variations on a Waltz tune by Anton Diabelli. I was astounded by the range of emotions that I heard, especially the wild, loud, bombastic music that Beethoven created.

The Brahms ‘Handel Variations’ on this recording are my great favorites. Brahms was a pianist first, and he became a composer later. And I heard astounding pianistic writing, and also symphonic aspects to this highly original music.

Now about the performers:

Andras Schiff, who plays Bach’s Goldberg Variations, gives a beautiful performance. He was 37 years old at the time that this recording was made. I was somewhat distracted by Mr. Schiff’s staring at the camera during the performance.

Daniel Barenboim’s is a more astounding performance. Barenboim plays with remarkable intensity and allows those variations to sing lyrically in all their beauty. Barenboim was also a younger man at the time that this recording was made. He was 49 years old, and he’s 71 now.

From a performance standpoint, my favorite interpretation was by Yefim Bronfman, playing the Handel Variations by Johannes Brahms. I heard hints of Brahms’ symphonic works, such as the two Serenades. And I was astounded by the range of emotional changes in the music: From quiet and introspective, to highly rhythmical and dance-like. Mr. Bronfman was a 29-year old pianist at the time that this recording was made.

I could not locate a recording of the Brahms, as played by Yefim Bronfman. So here is Murray Perahia, who gives a short masterclass on Brahms’s ‘Handel Variations’.



Tags: Variations, Beethoven, Diabelli, Bach, Goldberg, Brahms, Handel