J.S. BACH: GOLDBERG VARIATIONS, BWV 988
Aria with 30 Variations
Johann Sebastian Bach
AVNER ARAD, piano
"[Arad's] virtuosity reminds me of the great romantic virtuosos of the past: it served the music and composer more than the soloist who commanded it. There’s not a mannered moment in this performance, not one oddity. The tempos are right. The tone is full-bodied and athletic. The variety and brilliance of articulation is staggering."
Haskins, American Record Guide - July/August 2011
"[Arad] has technique to burn, and is able to negotiate Bach’s fastest pieces and most difficult contrapuntal passages with ease."
Jerry Dubins, Fanfare - July/August 2011
"...a truly perceptive performance of this masterwork on the modern concert grand piano can be a genuinely rewarding musical experience, as this new recording by the young Israeli-American pianist Avner Arad amply demonstrates. It is a very impressive performance indeed, wholly musical and clearly consistently well thought through, infused with genuine character... the clarity of Bach's part-writing is admirably revealed. Arad's phrasing is invariably first-class and his tempos are all judiciously chosen… with playing this good, I should have liked to hear this haunting music just once more! This is a really impressive disc: Arad is one of the best new Bach players I have heard in a long time, and I strongly recommend this modern recording."
Robert Matthew-Walker, International Record Review - June 2011
"[Arad] plays the piece with great spirit, fine technique and seemingly with the understanding of what is varied in each variation. His figuration is crisp, but always lyrical... this is a most impressive disc."
Turok's Choice, Issue 233 - June 2011
"Avner Arad pours spirited new wine into Bach’s old magic bottle we call 'the Goldbergs’. Digital strength and tonal clarity definitely claim Arad’s calling card, his articulation of those variations that might be labeled ‘inventions’ crystalline… Those variations with metric shifts Arad makes flow in steady pulsation that anticipates demands made by Chopin. The toccatas become quite breathtaking and dynamically fertile, the competing voices resonant in a manner reminiscent of Glenn Gould. Arad can shape phrases with color… [his] passing grace notes are no less remarkable than his fixed pulsation… Arad’s ‘plastic rigidity’, to invoke the contraries of his incisive performance, impart an aristocracy of spirit into the carnally-exalted polyphony that resolves into the da capo of the original and pristine Aria, untouched by its generative influence, secure in its enigmatic smile as the Mona Lisa."
Gary Lemco, Audiophile Audition - May 2011
"Avner Arad gives us a carefully thought through and highly satisfying performance of Bach’s famed Goldberg Variations. He does a wonderful job shaping and characterizing each individual variation, showing great facility in those that require hand-crossings. He does this with such consummate technique that he doesn’t call undue attention to them. This is a musician’s, rather than strictly a pianist’s, approach to the Goldbergs, and Arad shows himself adept at it as he brings out all the lyricism and the tensile strength of these Baroque gems in a natural, unforced manner that serves them well. Supporting Arad’s artistry is the beautifully natural quality of the sound recording, which was made by producer-engineer Richard Price."
Phil Muse, Audio Society of Atlanta - March 2011
Israeli-born pianist AVNER ARAD
has performed throughout North America and Europe as soloist, recitalist and chamber musician. Performance highlights have included engagements at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, Vienna’s Konzerthaus, Cologne's Kölner Philharmonie, Brussels’ Palais des Beaux-Arts, the Kennedy Center, 92nd Street Y, Merkin Hall, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, as well as festival appearances at Ravinia and Schleswig-Holstein.
Mr. Arad was a recipient of Carnegie Hall’s 1998 Distinctive Debuts Award. He performed Bach’s Goldberg Variations for his New York recital debut as winner of the Koussevitzky Memorial Competition, made his Lincoln Center debut with the Juilliard Orchestra, and embarked on his first European tour as winner of the Young Keyboard Artists International Piano Competition. He twice won the Juilliard School's Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition.
His critically acclaimed recordings include the complete waltzes by Chopin and an all-Schumann CD on MSR Classics label, the complete piano works of Janáček on Helicon Records, and Bloch’s complete works for violin and piano with Latica Honda-Rosenberg for OehmsClassics.
After receiving the Sharett Scholarship from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, Mr. Arad worked with Barry Snyder at the Eastman School of Music. He graduated from the Curtis Institute as a pupil of Seymour Lipkin, and received his master’s degree from the Juilliard School, where he studied with the late Rudolf Firkušný and Emanuel Ax.
* * *
J.S. Bach’s Aria with 30 Variations, published as Part IV of his ClavierÜbung (“Keyboard Practice”) by Balthasar Schmid of Nürnberg in 1741 and commonly referred to as the “Goldberg Variations,” likely had nothing directly to do with the harpsichordist Johann Gottlieb Goldberg. Goldberg’s name was linked to the work by Bach’s early biographer Johann Forkel, who claimed that the variations had been commissioned by Count von Keyserlingk for his resident harpsichordist, Goldberg, to play for him during sleepless nights. In fact, in November of 1741 Bach did visit Keyserlingk in Dresden, and Goldberg had previously been a student of both J.S. and his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, so Forkel’s account of the variations’ origin had a degree of plausibility. However, according to the eminent Bach scholar Christoph Wolff, the work had most probably already been published in the autumn. Moreover, the edition was issued without any dedication, which it almost certainly would have had if it had actually been commissioned by Keyserlingk. Despite the problematic nature of Forkel’s account, the name “Goldberg” has stuck with the variations and this is how the work is universally known today. [Dr. Jeffrey Kurtzman]
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
GOLDBERG VARIATIONS, BWV 988
Aria da capo