Bach: Goldberg Variations (adapted, arr. & composed Uri Caine)

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Winter & Winter
WORKS: Goldberg Variations (adapted, arr. & composed Uri Caine)
PERFORMER: Uri Caine Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: 910 054-2
Roll over, Jacques Loussier! Thus far, I had thought John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach Cantata Pilgrimage the only truly imaginative response to Bach Year. Uri Caine’s Goldberg Variations, albeit on a less exalted level, can be added to the list. Caine, a jazz pianist who has previously recorded ‘treatments’ of Mahler, Schumann and Wagner, has taken Bach’s variations, interpolated more than 40 of his own and arranged the lot for a variety of ensembles in a variety of styles. Purists may exit screaming at the very idea, but Caine’s arrangements are wonderfully inventive and they’re brilliantly executed, too.

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Caine treats Bach’s original variations fairly soberly – most are played either on solo piano or by a Baroque chamber ensemble – but elsewhere he lets his imagination run riot, creating variations in the styles of different composers (eg Mozart, Vivaldi, Rachmaninoff), dances (stomp, tango, waltz), musical genres (gospel, klezmer, latin) and so on. DJs, poets, a choral group, a gamba quartet, several notable jazzers and a gamut of vocalists also feature. There’s humour aplenty, yet Caine respects musicality – each variation is crafted with due expertise. Parody? Pastiche? It’s more a carnivalesque celebration of Bach’s enduring appeal. If only more tributes could be this bold, this creative, this much fun! Graham Lock