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Richard Strauss, JC Bach and JS Bach
Queen Elizabeth Hall 12 April 2006


Strauss (arr. Sitkovetsky) Sextet from Capriccio
JC Bach Sinfonia concertante in A for violin and cello
JS Bach (arr. Sitkovetsky) Goldberg Variations

LPO/Dmitry Sitkovetsky (conductor and violin)
Boris Garlitsky violin
Alexander Zemtsov viola
Henri Demarquette cello

A reduced orchestra sounded fine in QEH whilst the LPO is banished from the Festival Hall during its restoration. The first half was pleasing but the JC Bach concerto no more than that.

We had all come to hear the Goldberg Variations, its arrangement for strings and indulgence for Sitkovetsky, who was fulfilling 'a violinist's simple desire to get his hands on one of the great masterpieces of Western music'.

It went very well, keeping us all riveted and delighted in Bach's wealth of contrapuntal ingenuities for most of an hour. Many of the variations were given to the core string trio, the rest to a string orchestra of twenty. Sitkovetsky's hope that it would 'bring the music a buoyancy and joyousness less easily conveyed, perhaps, from the harpsichord' was vindicated. I wonder though how John Constable felt at being restricted to a modest continuo presence at the harpsichord?

Arrangements are commonplace in these days of constant search for novelty; we were reminded that JSB was himself an inveterate arranger. This one will bring new audiences to the Goldbergs; I hope some of them, and all our exploratory readers, will also consider two of my favourite arrangements, József Eötvös's for guitar and Uri Caine's elaboration Aria and 70 Variations for Various Ensembles (Winter&Winter 910 054-2) with Caine playing a copy of a Silbermann fortepiano, a modern piano and a Hammond organ, with an assemblage of tracks from classical choral and instrumental groups, jazz players and vocalists. Robin Holloway's Gilded Goldbergs (Hyperion CDA67360) is another rewarding creative response to Bach's masterpiece.

© Peter Grahame Woolf