The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Wisconsin Public Radio will broadcast the “Open Goldberg Variations” of J.S. Bach on this Sunday afternoon. You can listen and follow the score at the same time.

June 22, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Wisconsin Public Radio, which has historically been deeply devoted to building a broad audience for classical music, has a special mixed media treat in store for listeners this weekend.

The public radio network will broadcast the “Open Goldberg Variations” project this Sunday afternoon from 12:30 to 2 p.m. (WERN 88.7 FM in the Madison area). It features a piano performance plus a “public domain” score so you can follow along on the Internet as the music is played.

The performance is by Kimiko Ishizaka (below), and has been turned into an app.

It is ironic the mammoth theme-and-variations work by Johann Sebastian Bach (below) has become so popular and iconic. And there is something deeply moving about the aria that opens and closes the work.

Back in 1955, when the legendary and eccentric Canadian pianist Glenn Gould (below top) was 25, he used the Goldbergs for his Columbia Records debut. But many company executives and critics doubted that he would succeed with such an inaccessible and difficult  work.

Yet his energetic and ear-opening version of the Goldbergs, with its dizzying finger work and infectious rhythmic drive, became a big bestselling landmark that launched an unforgettable career. Gould went on to record just about all keyboard works of Bach; and later in life (below bottom) he started a re-recording project of the same works that began in 1981 with, but never got beyond, a second and completely different version of the Goldbergs. Then he died of a stroke at 50 in 1982.

And since then, many pianists have chosen the Goldbergs to make their mark, including Simone Dinnerstein who made a bestselling version of them to launch how now burgeoning concert and recording career.

Here is a link to a Wisconsin Public Radio website with details of the Sunday afternoon broadcast:

And here is a link to more background about the project:

And if you still aren’t convinced, here is a link to a composer’s very positive review of the Open Goldberg project:

And here are two more links to many – as in thousands — very positive reviews, many of which stress the vicarious quality of the performance, of the iTunes, iPhone and iPad app:

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