J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Gilded Goldbergs

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Robin Holloway
Soloists:Robin Holloway, arranger/composer
Micallef & Inanga Piano Duo, pianos
Individual Works:Goldberg Variations BWV 988
arranged for two pianos by Robin Holloway
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:Hyperion
Catalog Number:67360
Year Released/Recorded:2002
Total Playing Time:CD 1: 46'24
CD 2: 51'50
Comments:Jan Hanford said:

It is rare that I hate a recording so much that I feel I have to attack it but I want to be sure people realize what this recording is. What it is not is Bach's Goldberg Variations.

This abomination was created as a result of Holloway's inept piano skills, meaning that he found the Goldberg Variations too difficult to play on a single keyboard. Duh. However, many musicians have done it so it certainly isn't impossible. Extremely difficult: yes. Impossible: no. So, instead of practicing or (hello!) giving up, he chose to adapt them to his inabilities.

I hope he got a good grade on his school project because that's what it sounds like. The formerly beautiful Goldberg Variations are not just arranged but "recomposed" for two pianos. They are mutilated with 20th century cliches, including grotesque modulations and unpleasant harmonies. We are inflicted with things like "Variation 10: 'robust and a bit gormless' (wrong-note music)". I'd rather have a root canal. The self-important liner notes tell us of the difficulty of this project which took several years. Years? Whatever.

Marketed as 2 cd's for the price of 1, "Free" would be too expensive for this insult to good taste. I gave mine away to someone who was curious about it. I haven't heard back. What a surprise.

Jack DuVall said:

It is easy nowadays to buy and listen to professionally played and recorded classical compositions which are merely mediocre or stereotyped. It is less common to hear a recording which verges on being unlistenable to those who love the original, but that is what "Gilded Goldbergs" is. This version of Bach's masterpiece neither heightens nor extends the experience of it. The Goldberg Variations embody one of the signature dimensions of Bach's music: that at virtually every moment of the piece, the whole architecture is represented or signified. In a sense, all of Bach's music is a form of synecdoche, in which each part stands for the full creation. Metaphysically this echoes St. Augustine's famous statement about God: "He loves each of us, as if there were only one of us." So the structure of Bach's music is both supple and exacting; it crystallizes our attention, instead of dissipating it, like most modern media. But the essence of Bach is drowned in "Gilded Goldbergs", which doesn't so much interpret the original as exploit it, producing a kind of drive-by piano excursion that speeds up and slows down but goes nowhere in particular. Bach's music almost always manages to do two things at once: focus us on the microcosmic line, and enlarge our perception to embrace the macrocosmic purpose of music itself. "Gilded Goldbergs" does neither.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Jack DuVall
Formerly from the collection of Jan Hanford.
Date First Submitted:11/29/2002