The Goldberg Variations of Jean Rondeau at the Cobbe Collection at Hatchlands.
Jean Rondeau gave his last performance this week of the Goldberg variations for the Keyboard Charitable Trust beautifully organised by Dr Elena Vorotko co artistic director and originator of the Historic Keyboard section.
Last night in Handel House in central London and today at Hatchlands the National Trust Stately Home where the Cobbe collection is permanently on display.
All the instruments in working order and are regularly played as they were in their day by Mozart,Bach,Chopin,Liszt,Bizet,Beethoven etc.
An amazing collection on display with Alec Cobbe on hand to play each one with loving care for a collection that he has assembled over fifty years.
Today Jean Rondeau played the Goldberg on a double manual English instrument of 1787.
To a full hall of discerning listeners he held everyone of them in his extraordinary hands for exactly the hour requested.
Several minutes of total silence greeted the final magical apparition of the Aria.
A silence created by the total concentration that this young “lion of the keyboard” demands from the first to the last note in the extraordinary journey he takes us on where the rhythmic pulse never wavers for a second but allows such subtle colouring.
A sense of rubato of such aristocratic authority of a quite amazing maturity for a young man who is still only twently six.
He was obviously born to play the harpsichord and it was from the age of six when he first heard one on the radio that he was allowed to take his first lessons studying with Blandine Verlet for over ten years.
Studies in basso continuo,organ,piano,jazz ,improvisation ,composition and conducting followed to create this complete musician who is striding the world today.
The youngest performer ever at 21 to take first prize in the Bruges International Harpsichord Competition his career has since blossomed throughout Europe,North and South America and Asia.
Such is the mastery of this young man that the performance today was totally different from that of the other day in a private performance that he gave for a few lucky connoisseurs.
They were regaled by a short improvisation to prepare the atmosphere for the magical apparition of Bach’s extraordinary Aria and were then treated at the end to two contrasting versions of the Quodlibet finale where Bach combines two popular tunes to bring these variations to their triumphant conclusion tongue in cheek before repeating with such simplicity the magical opening Aria.
The beautiful 25th variation played with a simplicity leading to the almost animal excitement of extraordinary virtuosity in the variations that lead up to the final outpouring that is the final 29th variation ,here played with an almost improvisatory freedom .
The Quodlibet that tonight he chose to play or at least the atmosphere he chose to give it was of an almost romantic pastoral that led with even more pathos to the simple monocrome statement that he chose to give of the extraordinary final statement of the repeat of the opening aria .
Wonderfully clear rhythmic statement of the first variation which set the pace for this astonishing masterpiece commissioned from Bach by Count Goldberg for his insomnia needy of some nocturnal entertainment .
Unusually pastoral type 8th variation gave just the right respite from the crystal clear 7th Tempo di Giga or the taught almost militaristic trills of the 10th.
Extreme command of the 14th variation of really transcendental difficulty (especially on an English harpsichord as Jean pointed out afterwards) created just the contrast with the poignantly beautiful 13th.
The great French Overture of the 16th played with such majesty opening up the perfect pathway for the ascent to the incredible excitement generated up to the final explosion in the 29th.
The sheer innocence of the Alla breve that gives only a slight hint of what is to follow lit up to perfection like a beacon pointing the way .
A truly fascinating journey from this artist who only started to prepare them for performance six months ago.
I well remember Rosalyn Tureck playing them in London in 1972 the first half of the concert a complete performance on the harpsichord and the second on the piano .
Bach knew the piano she stated quite clearly in the programme and indeed repeated by Alec Cobbe today.
She repeated them on my insistence in my theatre in Rome after an absence of almost thirty years from the concert platform choosing to withdraw from the concert platform in order to dedicate herself to a more complete study of Bach in Oxford.
That monumental performance lasted one hour and twenty minutes – quite rightly she was dubbed the High Priestess of Bach by Harold Shoenberg and Rubinstein quipped that Tureck made Bach box office.
She was at the height of her powers and created the Tureck Bach Institute in Oxford of which I was honoured to be a Trustee .
A symposium held each year with scientists ,mathemeticians and musicians all dedicated to the understanding of the mutifaceted genius that was Bach.
We have been waiting a long time for a High Priest for the new generation and there is no doubt in my mind that we now have one in our midst.
Simply extraordinary .