But happily, I arrived in town a few hours before the book launch – just in time to hear pianist David Jalbert play a recital at St. Andrew’s Church, presented by Stratford Summer Music.
There was just one piece on his program: Bach’s monumental 32-movement Goldberg Variations. In an opening statement, the Ottawa-based pianist pointed out that the piece was originally written for a two-manual harpsichord. As his Yamaha grand piano only had one manual, this made for a lot of tricky fingerings – and those of us who were seated on the left side of the church were able to see just how challenging some passages were.
Is it possible to play the Goldbergs in the year 2012 without calling Glenn Gould to mind? Perhaps it might be possible if one could somehow assemble an audience made up of people who had devoted their lives to avoiding Gould’s 1955 and 1981 recordings of this masterpiece.
But there are many people (and I’m one of them) for whom Gould’s Goldberg recordings are definitive statements – so I found myself almost unwittingly making mental comparisons. And this was no exercise in hair-splitting discernment: in many ways, the two pianists couldn’t have been more different if they were trying.
Was Jalbert “trying”? I think not: his interpretations were far too well thought-out on their own terms to be motivated by mere contrarian-ness. While Gould remains my favourite, I thank Jalbert for demonstrating that there’s more than one way to successfully play the Goldbergs.
© 2012 Colin Eatock