The Goldberg Variations in the National Liberal Club played for the first time by Daniel Grimwood on the magnificent new Steinway concert grand that sits so proudly in the hallowed halls of this illustrious club.
As the chairman Tim McNally said this was the musical equivalent of scaling Everest and he made reference to Rosalyn Tureck who was described by the critics as the High Priestess of Bach.A mantle that passed to that eclectic and eccentric Canadian pianist Glenn Gould.It has now passed to another Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt who shares the accolade with Andras Schiff.
It was in the early nineties that I was able to persuade Rosalyn Tureck to return to the concert platform after years of dedicating herself in Oxford to the study of Bach and his absolute genius.
She agreed to play in my theatre in Rome in late September after a brief workman’s holiday break in Sorrento.
Of course I agreed even though it is still very much a holiday period and thought there would probably not be the public that she deserves.
The theatre sold out and it was again the triumph reborn that she had known since having had a mystical experience about Bach in her early 20’s.
I took her all over Italy where she became once again the undisputed diva above all in Florence,the universal centre of culture.
We became great friends during her Indian summer and I became a trustee of her Oxford Bach research institute.Her annual Symposia became a much awaited appointment for not only musicians but above all scientists and mathematicians all delving deep into the genius of Bach.
In that season a month later I invited Tatyana Nikolaeva to play the Goldberg Variations and was much criticised in unmusical circles for not having a more adventurous programme !
The comparison was enlightening and unique. Tureck like a monument carved in stone and Nikolaeva based on the more human song and the dance .
So it is always with great interest and spiritual awakening that I listen to performances of the greatest set of variations ever carved in music.
Let me say straight away that Daniel Grimwood gave a very fine performance that was remarkably the first time he had dared approach this monument.
Playing with the score it was of a clarity and intelligence with discreet ornamentation,never overstepping the mark of good taste and genuine respect.
Having explained the significance of keys in Bach’s period where the key of G had a great meaning and the few times it entered the minor key was of great significance .There were some memorable moments from this very fine musician who every so often revealed the soul and sense of fantasy that is in every true artist.
The end of the 21st variation disappearing into the infinite as he left the pedal on for the whispered entry of the sun appearing on the distant horizon in the 22nd.
The glorious glissando type effect of the ornamentation in the ritornello of the French Overture – the half way mark where things start to get more serious and involved as we move to the glory of the 29th variation.
The great organ stops in this penultimate variation resounding with such majesty on this magnificent Steinway.
But then a moment of breathtaking beauty as the Quodlibet was allowed to enter in a mist of sound as these two popular melodies that Bach adds build to a passionate climax only to die to a whisper. Leaving the pedal ,a masterstroke that I have only experienced from Andre Tchaikovsky ,allowing the return of the aria to literally float on the magic cloud of G.
A full circle like in life.
‘In the beginning is our end’ – T.S.Eliot
What a universal genius Bach is