J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Goldberg Variations

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Kurt Rodarmer
Individual Works:Aria, Variations 1-30, Aria da Capo
BWV 988
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:SONY Classical
Catalog Number:60257
Year Released/Recorded:1996/1998
Total Playing Time:73:36
Related Web Site:http://www.pangaea-productions.com
Comments:Review by Jan Hanford:

It is a rare pleasure to be able to recommend a recording of such astonishing musicianship. Kurt Rodarmer has crossed several barriers with his transcription of the Goldberg Variations for guitar. Rather than adopting the common practice of reducing (and compromising) the score to accommodate a single guitarist's limitations, he transcribed the entire score. He commissioned two custom-made guitars to accommodate the extended range of the score and used overdubbing the various lines to create a unified whole. The result, instead of sounding like an ensemble of guitars, creates the feeling of one guitarist playing with consistency and tremendous virtuosity. He maintains the authenticity and beauty of these works while also giving us something new .

But it isn't just the technology that is impressive. His outstanding performance is full of expression with beautiful dynamic subtlety, bringing an intimacy to these often-recorded works that is not common even in keyboard versions. Also, he has clearly spent a great deal of time and care in developing the articulation of some notes and phrases, which adds a great deal to the musicality of his performance. He truly is a virtuoso and his mastery of the guitar as well as these works makes this recording an exceptionally rewarding experience.

David Grossman said:

This is an amazing recording which will undoubtedly become one of my favorite discs of all time. The Goldberg Variations have always been one of my favorite Bach works. I own 10 recordings of this work and I recently ordered number 11. The instrumentation of these recordings varies from the original instrument, Harpsichord to Piano, String Trio, String Orchestra, Organ, and now, the Classical Guitar.

Kurt Rodarmer's transcription is true to the original score. Multi-tracking and two specially made guitars have allowed Kurt to play this work exactly as written. One of the most amazing aspects of this recording is the fact that Kurt was able to multi-track the various voices while retaining the unity of a solo performance. The individual voices are clearly separated but the phrasing makes it perfectly clear that it is a single person playing this work and not an ensemble. His vibrato is subtle and adds to the performance a dimension which is not possible with keyboard instruments. Likewise, his other dynamics are equally appropriate and enhance the enjoyment of the work. Some of the ornamentation was different from what I am used to but I have heard many variations ( no pun intended ) on ornamentation throughout the many versions I own.

Two special guitars were commissioned for this project. One standard, and one tuned down to the bass register. The quality of the tone is relatively consistent throughout the range of both instruments. I have yet to hear a tone as warm, rich, and beautiful from any other classical guitar. Kurt Rodarmer's technique is impeccable. The parts with string and fret noise are few and far between. Some noise is inevitable in classical guitar performances but it is hardly noticeable in this recording.

I have no complaints about this disc. The booklet is very well designed and contains information about the work, the instruments, and the performer. I highly recommend this recording. At over 73 minutes, you certainly get your money's worth from this disc.

Gus Swigert said:

This is an incredibly well done and history making recording with great sound quality and unbelievable playing, and Rodarmer's transcription to guitar is absolutely faithful to Bach's original. A must.

Todd Taggart said:

Is it possible to wear CDs out? Mine of Rodarmar's Goldberg Variations is always being played. I love it. It's a world premiere arrangement of the original work for guitar.

Robert N. Fischer said:

Each time I listen to Kurt Rodarmer's CD of the Goldberg Variations I am more impressed, or should I say "amazed." It is a major musical acheivement. It is difficult to beleive that the transcription and performance were even possible, not to mention, accomplished by one man with only one mind and ten fingers. He used four guitars and mixed down the tracks. It was recorded direct to digital without reverb, equalization or other tricks. The musicianship is impeccable, the guitars themselves sound richer and more dynamic than any I have ever heard recorded.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Gus Swigert
  • Todd Taggart
  • Robert N. Fischer
  • David Grossman
And from the collection of Jan Hanford.
Date First Submitted:06/17/1997