J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Goldberg Variations on solo marimba

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Pius Cheung
Individual Works:Goldberg Variations, BWV 988
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:Independent
Year Released/Recorded:07/07/2006
Total Playing Time:52:26
Comments:Pius Cheung said:

The first and only recording of the Goldberg Variations on Marimba.

■Absolutely Incredible! Cheung adds a tasty amount of musical nuances that Bach would have likely approved of had he heard today■s modern marimba." - PAS Percussive Notes Magazine

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■■.. An excellent alternative to the usual keyboard version of this Bach masterpiece. As Charles Ives would have said, "A real ear-stretcher." - John Sunier, AUDIOPHILE AUDITION

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■Pius Cheung is a remarkably gifted and accomplished young artist. I always enjoy listening to his elegant and virtuosic music-making.■ - Gary Graffman

John Grimes said:

In recent years the field of music has become inundated with a rediscovery of the unique and powerful qualities of the marimba as a solo instrument capable of a wide range of colors and expression.

Twenty something Mr. Cheung brings exceptional early pianistic formative skills to the somewhat still rarified pantheon of marimba virtuosi.

However, having stated this, Cheung clearly demonstrates a remarkable sensitivity or touch on the marimba bars often associated with pianists and harpsichordists, but not with keyboard mallet instruments.

This unusual gift, together with a convincing grasp of sweeping Chopinistic romanticism at times gives a breadth and scale to the variations not often heard in other interpretations. Once you're under Cheung's spell, it takes just a short while to retool the ears and divorce one's thoughts from a dependence upon the familiar timbres of the harpsichord in order to get through the experience.

For Cheung, the marimba is not the end in itself, but a vehicle of to express much of what is innate as well as grand in the music of Bach. I am touched by the elegance with which he states the opening aria as well as many of the subtler and gentler variations.

This is not just a marimba soloist playing the Goldbergs, it is a profound artist taking on a monumental challenge at a very early age and scaling olympus his own way.

Don't be too harsh on the questions of faithfulness or lack therof to historical performance practice. There is so much stylish playing here, that if it takes Cheung 20 more years to refine those elements, we will enjoy making the journey with him in his future releases. Its well worth going to Cheung's site and buying this disc.

I give it 5 stars.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Pius Cheung Music Office
  • John Grimes
Date First Submitted:05/20/2007