Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 (trans. for strings by Dmitry Sitkovetsky)

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Nonesuch
WORKS: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 (trans. for strings by Dmitry Sitkovetsky)
PERFORMER: NES CO
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-79341-2 DDD
‘Dear Goldberg, play me one of my Variations!’ Thus the insomniac Count Keyserling would console himself during sleepless nights. Although Bach’s Goldberg Variations are generally played complete in the concert hall, the monotonous persistence of the same tonic (G major/minor) strongly implies that they were never originally intended to be played in their entirety. But this powerful arrangement for string orchestra offers a vivid portrayal of the work’s mixture of simple forms and styles that convincingly argues for playing the set whole.

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Sitkovetsky’s transcription, which fully exploits the music’s potential for textural variety, offers an abundance of fresh insights. Beside predictable enhancement of melodic threads, Sitkovetsky and his orchestra reveal an underlying formal design, defined by groups of variations, in which effectively contrasted solo and tutti elements convey a clear concerto character. Between the two poignantly expressive statements of the aria there are spacious movements for full orchestra (variations 1, 10, 16, 26 and 30), intimate, aria-like slow movements (13, 19 and 25), movements that feature various solo ensembles (3, 11, 27 and 29) and passages of vigorous, virtuoso display (5, and 23). Overall, Sitkovetsky’s own authoritative playing and deftly balanced control of different instrumental groupings creates a compelling performance that is attractively presented in atmospheric recorded sound. Nicholas Rast