The arrangement of Bach's Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, for string trio by Russian violinist and composer Dmitry Sitkovetsky has taken on a life of its town, with multiple performances and even a sort of electronic remix by Karlheinz Essl. The appeal for string chamber groups longing to share in Bach's riches is obvious, and for audiences it appears to be another case of Bach's music standing up to whatever you do to it. Like most other annotators, Hyperion's Nigel Simeone tries to claim that the arrangement is on a par with the numerous transcriptions Bach made of his own works. It is no such thing; the string chamber texture by its nature adds expressive devices that were not of Bach's world, and he would have found Sitkovetsky's version bizarre.
Pianist Lars Vogt presents one of the classic works of the Baroque repertoire – Johann Sebastian Bach’s (1685–1750) famous Goldberg Variations. Originally written for the harpsichord the Goldberg Variations, published in 1741, embody an Aria with 30 variations and a coda. Bach wrote the work for Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, who, as the narrative says, often played music as a cure for Count Kaiserling’s insomnia. Apparently the work was one of the successes that Bach had during his lifetime and it was also published during his lifetime.
A peerless conception and realization of Bach's Goldberg Variations. Perhaps the most telling aspect of listening to Perahia's recording for me is that when it is finished, I want to start again at the beginning. It is as if a "world" is contained in this piece, and I am reluctant to leave it.
The Goldberg Variations are a pinnacle of Bach’s art. Conceived for harpsichord, the work has been transcribed for quite different instruments. . . Richard Boothby’s version for his own consort of viols, Fretwork, is arguably the most unusual, in that it opts for a soundworld that looks even further back in time. Part of the justification for such a setting must be Bach’s own liking for viola da gamba, already then old-fashioned…. Boothby’s setting is dexterously divided between various combinations of the treble, tenor and bass viols, and he achieved some magical effects, notably (…) in variations of gossamer passagework.
The Russian-born violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky, who founded the New European Strings Chamber Orchestra in 1990, has enthusiastically practiced the art of transcription for many years, producing more than 25 new string arrangements of chamber and keyboard works. This is Sitkovetsky’s first project for Nonesuch, a creative adaptation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations for strings, cast a fresh light on that formidable monument of keyboard music. The New York Times called it “robust, joyous and full of insight.”
Jan Hanford said:
"I have enjoyed Ketil Haugsand's performances previously on recordings of Bach and Rameau and when I heard he had recorded the Goldberg Variations I had to have it. I was not disappointed; it's a vibrant and delightfully personal interpretation that is often thrilling.
A surprise: he uses frequent ornamentation and I enjoyed it. Probably because of his intelligent balance of tempos and phrasing, the ornamentation is not an interruption but a complement to the music, as it should be. His tempos are lively, his phrasing is highly musical and his articulation is captivating. The result is a personal interpretation that separates it from the kind of dry performance of which there are many. It makes you love the Goldbergs all over again, as Ketil Haugsand obviously does.
The harpsichord sound is lovely, with clear treble and rich bass. It sounds as if you are sitting next to him while he plays; very enjoyable!
This is a highly recommended cd of a standout performance."
With this transcription of the Goldberg Variations for string trio Dmitry Sitkovetsky pays homage to the genius of Bach over and above the original works for violin. The parts for violin, viola and cello are not divided in the context of a Baroque string ensemble supported by a basso continuo. The three equal partners function here like the different registers of a single instrument.
Bach dedicated the Aria mit verschiedenen Veränderungen to "music-lovers for the pleasure of their souls". May the transcription presented here be received in this spirit.