Please wait...

Hyperion Records

Click cover art to view larger version
View towards Dresden from Cossebaude (1745) by Johann Alexander Thiele (1685-1752)
AKG London / Staatsliches Museum, Schwerin
Track(s) taken from CDA67305
Recording details: September 1999
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Ludger Böckenhoff
Engineered by Ludger Böckenhoff
Release date: March 2000
Total duration: 78 minutes 18 seconds

'Beautifully co-ordinated Bach playing, with all voices colourfully defined and spontaneity as a constant virtue. In my view, she has never made a better CD. Strongly recommended' (Gramophone)

'Outstanding…Hewitt's disc, exquisite artistry commingling with infectious exhilaration gives me the most pleasure' (BBC Music Magazine)

'It is a remarkable achievement, arguably the best to appear on disc since Glenn Gould's second celebrated recording from 1981 … [It] is the sheer technical command of her playing, coupled with such elegantly supple musicianship, that makes the performance so compelling … Everything is right, everything is natural—this is Bach on the piano of the highest quality imaginable' (The Guardian)

'After five days of recording sessions last August, Angela Hewitt returned in the small hours of September 1 to give a complete "performance" for a few friends of the Bach's Aria with Diverse Variations. Fortunately, the engineers decided to keep the tapes rolling, for this, according to Hyperion's executive director, Ted Perry, is the "take" Hewitt and Hyperion decided to release. The resulting record is a miracle of music-making at its most instinctive and spontaneous. Even by Hewitt's exalted standards it is extraordinary: in the brilliant toccatas, she creates, with her amazing articulation, the illusion of the music being plucked by the modern piano's hammers; her virtuosity and joie de vivre in the fast variations—try 1, 14 and "the most dangerous of all the toccatas", No 20—take the breath away. She also penetrates the heart of the great 13th and 25th variations without false romantic sentiment. The reprise of the Aria at the close—after a majestic variation 29—is shattering. If you only buy one Bach album in this anniversary year, let it be this one. A desert-island disc!' (The Sunday Times)

'The most recent in a series of wonderfully compelling Bach recordings by pianist Angela Hewitt. She seems to do everything right … simply one of the best piano versions available' (Fanfare, USA)

'Hewitt is one of the very finest Bach interpreters around. She possesses all the mechanical skills needed to master the difficulties facing the soloist, but never loses sight of the humanity that is evident in every note … Playing of the highest order, and one of the finest recordings of this work you're ever likely to hear' (The Scotsman)

'This is as fine a version of Bach's inventive Goldberg Variations as there is' (Express)

Goldberg Variations 'Aria mit verschiedenen Veränderungen', BWV988
composer
published in 1741/2 by Baltasar Schmidt of Nuremberg

Aria  [4'12]
Aria da capo  [2'40]

Other recordings available for download
Matthew Halls (harpsichord)
Tatiana Nikolayeva (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
At the outset we hear the Aria; the G major Sarabande 3/4 from ‘Anna Magdalena’s Notebook’ (see above). This has an elaborate treble line, already a variation above the bass. Tovey observed of the Aria: ‘Its phrasing is as uniform as a chess-board; and if its harmonies had not a one-to-one correspondence with each variation, the form would be lost.’

Variation 1 3/4 is a duet with a quaver figure in the left hand, a semiquaver in the right, and the two interchanged. Rosalyn Tureck sees it as ‘an archway’ to the subsequent unfolding of Bach’s vast, expressive structure. With Variation 2 2/4 Bach introduces a delicate three-part cantabile; the upper parts pursuing a imitative dialogue, at variance with the bass line.

Variation 3 becomes the first of Bach’s canons; his canon on the unison 12/8. A trio with even-handed upper parts; these voices cross paths and through the bass its harmony is kept in motion. A constant overlapping of entries characterizes the ensuing four-part 3/8 fugal discourse with a sole three-note figure and its inversion.

The next, extrovert 3/4 duet called for two keyboards ‘a 1 Clav’ and ‘a 2 Clav’ as Bach originally dictated (Balthasar and Schmid) in his reference to the seperate manuals. A bouyant variation with frequent crossing of hands.

Variation 6. At the Canon on the second 3/8 we are on serene territory while upper discords resolve naturally to a third against a striding bass.

There follows a thematic duet 6/8; Bach’s sole variation in the manner of a binary gigue; commonly an animated fourth movement of the classical French-style suite.

Variation 8—yet another duet 3/4, originally assigned to the second manual. The first pair of statements are eventually inverted.

Bach’s ‘Canon in the third’ 4/4 is an essay in consonance with the bass more unconstrained, yet still making regular reference to the original harmony.

Variation 10 is a four-part fughetta 2/2. The four-part bass theme reminds us plainly of Bach’s harmonic starting point.

More outwardly virtuosic duet writing 2/2 characterizes Variation 11.

With the Canon in the fourth 3/4 entries are re-ordered and themes capriciously inverted in the latter half. Here the inversion is as clear and expressive as its original form. Bach must have smiled inwardly at his tacit, jestful approach to the prevailing formal structure.

In his embellished aria for Variation 13 Bach proceeds 3/4 with a rich, lyrical upper statement and the lower accompanying voices doubled; its style is ornamental throughout.

The 14th Variation is an outgoing duet calling for dazzling fingerwork 3/4. Each of four statements is eventually inverted.

With the Canon in the fifth and inversion 2/4 the work has deepened and a more elegiac note appears. This more sober, strongly emotional, chromatic writing finishes not on the conventional tonic, as one might expect, but on the fifth; ascending as one commentator remarks ‘into silence’.

Variation 16 is a bold, massive, French-style overture 2/2, still in binary form and generally regarded as Bach’s preparatory nod toward part two of the Aria and Variations. In strict form, as introduced by Lully (1685), the variation opens with dotted rhythms and ends with an accelerated fugue, in this instance the 3-part fughetta 2.

A straightforward yet highly complex duet 3/4 forms Variation 17.

It is followed by Bach’s Canon in the sixth 2/2. As the canonic parts move in sixths with the pause of a minim, accents of the upper parts are reversed. Resulting suspended discords give variation 18 a distinctive harmonic ‘thumbprint’. The polyphony is further ‘clarified’ and the Variation’s original bass also evident within the canonic lines.

In the trio 3/8 of Variation 19 brief figures (quaver and semiquaver) are periodically interchanged as the Variation progresses.

Bach’s duets become increasingly virtuosic as Variation 20 demonstrates. This one 3/4 has fast semiquaver triplets in two of its three sets of figures.

Canon in the seventh. A gentle, contemplative mood 4/4 is established as the closely-spaced parts succeed one another.

Variation No 22 is a four-part fugue 2/2; its guileless motif builds up with inexorable, structural splendour to full, ringing chords.

An exuberant, comic duet 3/4 with dashing double third and double sixth figures; Variation 23 includes tongue-in-cheek mordents and sobriety is cast to the winds.

Canon in the octave 9/8. This rural theme and answer proceeds with an aura of timelessness, while the melody moves to adjacent notes.

Variation 25: this highly charged G minor Variation 3/4 is a powerful, profoundly tragic utterance. A further embellished aria: the brilliant, chromatic bass structure and the unusually specific treble melody interact with unsettling intensity, almost threatening tonal stability.

Bach combines both duet and trio 3/4 in his 26th Variation. A two-part Sarabande is woven around with coursing triplet figurations.

Here, with the final Canon in the ninth 6/8 the bass is silent; the mood relaxed.

Both No 28 3/4 and the following Variation anticipate the work’s conclusion. Here the part-writing is supplanted in part by complex two-part embellishments. Karl Geiringer notes that this Variation and No 29 appear to anticipate a nineteenth-century style of keyboard writing.

With the penultimate Variation excitement is further heightened in chord sequences and fleet-fingered one-part passages.

Variation 30. At this point we might reasonably expect to discover a canon at the 10th. Instead Bach confounds and delights with his Quodlibet, a divertissement on popular tunes, rounding off the work in a genuine mood of humour and congeniality. It recalls the social fun enjoyed by the Bach family and their friends. The principal quodlibet tunes are German folksongs: ‘I have not been with you for so long’ and ‘Cabbage (Kraut) and turnips (Ruben) have driven me away’. The German saying ‘Durcheinander wie Kraut und Rüben’ can also mean ‘in complete confusion’ and some commentators believe this more idiomatic translation is clear evidence of Bach’s own (intentional) hearty laughter when recollecting the complexity of all that precedes his quodlibet.

Beneath the fugal treatment of these folk tunes Bach returns to his original bass. In doing so he leads listeners back to that generating Aria, the life source from whence these encompassing Variations stemmed and to which they now return. Finally, via immeasurable complexities, their wellspring is enhanced and re-invested with a profound, affirmative sense of renewal. For many listeners these closing sequences are the work’s most surpassing.

from notes by Howard Smith © 1992


Other albums featuring this work
'Bach: Angela Hewitt plays Bach' (CDS44421/35)
Bach: Angela Hewitt plays Bach
MP3 £45.00FLAC £45.00ALAC £45.00Buy by post £50.00 CDS44421/35  15CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
'Bach: Goldberg Variations & other works' (CKD356)
Bach: Goldberg Variations & other works
MP3 £8.00FLAC £10.00ALAC £10.00 CKD356  Download only  
'Bach: Goldberg Variations' (CDA66589)
Bach: Goldberg Variations
'The Essential Hyperion, Vol. 2' (HYP20)
The Essential Hyperion, Vol. 2
This album is not yet available for download HYP20  2CDs Super-budget price sampler — Deleted  

Show: MP3 FLAC ALAC
   English   Français   Deutsch