Like all great artists Jonathan’s fourth outing of the Goldberg Variations was thought provoking not only for us in the beautiful countryside surroundings of the Comunità di Etica Vivente in the city of Perugino.
Above all it was thought provoking for Jonathan as in the 75 minute tour de force his voyage of discovery took him to places of sublime beauty but also places that yet have to fit perfectly into this jig saw puzzle that Bach pieced together for a noble man’s insomnia.
I have written in detail of my impression of his first performance a few months ago.
I even made a podcast with him for the Keyboard Trust in which he spoke of his humility but also exhilaration at starting a journey where a lifetime may not ever be enough.Perfection is the unattainable goal of all thinking artists but it is the search that can be so fascinating when conducted with the intelligence and artistry of Jonathan.
It was refreshing to see his mentor Angela Hewitt at his performance and to see the discussions afterwards and to know that those discussions will continue in private as they share their opinions with such humility and honesty each one trying to convince the other of the route they had chosen.In trying to convince each other maybe even finding a completely different route themselves.Variation 28 was indeed thought provoking in Jonathan’s ultra sensitive hands.He obviously had in mind the celestial trills that were so much part of late Beethoven’s search for the perfect legato.Busoni had similar flights of imagination in the second half of the variations as many were inspired by the influence on him of the visionary Franz Liszt.Rosalyn Tureck had the idea that there should be a constant tempo throughout the variations like a immovable rock whereas Nikolaeva played with the warmth based on the song and the dance.
His mentor Angela Hewitt gave a monumental performance during lock down in Bach’s own church in Leipzig as near to Bach as anyone could possibly get.Glenn Gould gave a performance in Moscow where as he played for the first time word spread and the hall gradually filled to capacity as he too was on his genial journey which was to cause such debate when his famous ( or should I say infamous ) recording took the music world by storm.Jonathan will eventually find the simplicity and an immovable rhythmic precision as his journey continues.He may decide that it is enough to embellish the ritornelli with simplicity rather that try to make ,so obviously,one hand more prominent than the other.There are so many combinations possible and a lifetime may indeed be too little.
But Jonathan’s struggle is a vibrant living,fascinating thing that I for one would not miss the next instalment which hopefully will be in his hometown of Florence – the cradle of Western Culture.
Hats off to a young man who has decided to dedicate his youth to art with such dedication and technical expertise.A rarity indeed and an example to us all,especially the young, in these difficult times.