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The New Goldberg Variations

Works by John Corigliano, Christopher Rouse, Peter Lieberson, Kenneth Frazelle, Peter Schickele, Richard Danielpour


Tanya Prochazka (cello) Jacques Despres (piano)

Arktos 200368


Reinvention is a proud tradition in all the arts. Countless paintings take as their starting point an iconic predecessor within the tradition; variations, symphonic metamorphoses and the like are thick on the ground in classical music. Here is another.


The Goldbergs of the title are actually also Robert and Judy (pictured) who commissioned this disc, loosely using the Bach variations as a springboard for present-day compositions. They are for cello and piano, since Yo Yo Ma, prominently credited in the notes, was heavily involved and has performed the sequence on a number of occasions, though not on this recording. Tragically, while the project was under way, Robert was diagnosed with cancer and died, so the disc is also a memorial to him as a modern-day Maecenas, patron of the arts, friend of the composers and performers featured here. In that context, one should also excuse the CD's brevity (46 minutes).


Corigliano's Fancy is the disc's highlight for me, haunting and passionate, and drawing on Bach's solo cello style. Schickele's ironies, cerebral yet passionate and the fantasy variations by Danielpour are also extremely attractive, a fitting finale (the original works are flanked by the aria, just as in Bach. Elsewhere, both Frazelle and Rouse explicitly write deeply-felt works of mourning, Lieberson a miniature sonata; the overall technical quality of the composition is very high. Prochazka and Despres are able, committed interpreters.


Altogether an interesting and charming disc, although be warned; the composers were given complete freedom to write their own short pieces lasting five or six minutes; this is in no way a Uri Caine-type exercise in recomposing the original.


Ying Chang

see also http://www.musicalpointers.co.uk/reviews/cddvd/TanyaProchazka.htm