Imagining how Bach himself might have transformed the Goldberg Variations for a chamber group, Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque present a pioneering new arrangement of the Bach: Goldberg Variations Reimagined by Chad Kelly.
Employing a variety of instrumental combinations from a typical Bach ensemble of single strings, oboe, flute, bassoon and harpsichord, these newly-crafted Goldbergs illuminate exquisite responses to the various historical genres inherent in Bach’s scores. This beloved masterpiece was composed through a period of personal tumult for Bach; two unsuccessful job applications, the premature death of his son Gottfried, and criticism of his music in a prominent Hamburg publication.
Bach’s outpouring of beauty in the Goldberg Variations has long captured audience’s imaginations – Chad Kelly, Rachel Podger and her Brecon Baroque preserve the work’s exquisite intricacy while adding breadth, texture and color to its emotional backdrop. This revisioning of Bach’s Goldberg Variations is a perfect transformation of the work for the modern era.
I was keen that this arrangement would in some way reflect a broad sphere of influence. When I considered how best to use the instruments in each Variation, I was reminded of a quote from the late, great, historical wind player and musicologist Bruce Haynes, who believed that, “Bach valued the distinctive qualities of each instrument and wrote with friendship and affection for all of them”. – Chad Kelly
Rachel Podger – Violin
Chad Kelly – Harpsichord & Arrangements
TracklistPlease note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
Total time: 01:21:12
|Original Recording Format|
|Release Date||October 20, 2023|
It only took 15 seconds for this reimagining of the Goldberg to completely pull me in—hook, line and sinker I went. Of course, that this was Rachel Podger at the helm of her Brecon Baroque colleagues certainly encouraged the adventure.
Arranged Chad Kelly, this reimagining preserves the integrity of this intricate composition while adding color and texture with the ensemble of single strings, oboe, flute, bassoon and harpsichord. What delighted me is that the additional instruments do not overwhelm the work. It remains intimate and supple, now with just a bit more color and texture. And the performers are, as always, just excellent—technically proficient, perfect ensemble, delightful inflection and phrasing. All is entirely consistent with what I’ve come to expect with every performance from Rachel Podger and her compatriots.
The Arts Desk
Baroque violinist Rachel Podger plays the work in Chad Kelly’s ‘reimagining’, an attempt “to be idiomatic to the historical instruments used in its performance and to the individual styles and genres referenced in the work.” I’m fond of Dmitry Sitkovetsky’s arrangement for string trio, but Kelly’s version has Podger leading with flute, oboes and bassoon and four strings as accompanists, plus Kelly on harpsichord. The results are beguiling and hugely entertaining, this Bach outward-looking and approachable. It’s difficult not to grin when you hear the winds chuntering away in Variation 2, bassoonist Inga Klaucke’s bass lines tossed off with insouciant ease. Podger instinctively knows when to step back and let the other voices speak. It’s fascinating to compare the disc with Ólafsson’s – Podger’s tempi are by necessity more relaxed in the faster variations and the ornaments often differ. Flautist Katy Bircher charms in Variation 13. Several numbers sound like missing movements from the Brandenburgs (try Variations 14 and 19). And when the mood darkens, Kelly knows what colours to deploy, Variation 21 rich in fruity wind sonorities. Podger’s solo in No. 25 is heart stopping, and an almost orchestral-sounding “Quodlibet” segues straight into the aria’s reprise. A fabulous disc, beautifully recorded.
The first published version of Bach’s Goldbergs, soon after its composition, calls the work a keyboard exercise for harpsichord with two manuals. Now more often played on a piano with one manual – as per Ólafsson – this description has never limited other musicians. Guitar? Cimbalons? Saxophone ensemble? All done. The violinist Rachel Podger leads a “new” instrumental version: Bach Goldberg Variations Reimagined (Channel Classics), with the ensemble Brecon Baroque, directed from the harpsichord (double manual) by Chad Kelly, who made the arrangement. Heard “blind”, you might mistake it for an extra Brandenburg concerto – no bad thing. Podger is a supreme baroque player, and this is a bold and different way to think about Bach’s unfathomable genius.
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