Thursday, February 7, 2013

Why didn't I know about this?!?!?!

In case you were wondering about my musical tastes, there's some things about which I'm an unabashed enthusiast. 

I really like Bach's "Goldberg" Variations.  I started off falling in love with the 1955 Gould recording, then getting seduced by the 1981 Gould recording, attended a good performance by Peter Serkin and a great performance by Jeremy Denk, not to mention the great recording by by Simone Dinnerstein.  The Goldbergs are one of the desert-island ten; I'd have a real hard time deciding which recording to take. 

I am an avid fan of what some see as excesses of late 19th-early 20th century Romantic pianism--the overcooked exuberance of Godowsky, Brahms, Liszt, Busoni, and their ilk.  I especially like it when they took the music of an earlier era and reworked it for their own ends; I have oodles of recordings of Bach in transcription.  Chasing this genus of genius leads one to the music of composers who are still really good, just not well-remembered, such as Rheinberger and Reger.

Also, I've always been a great fan of piano music for four (or six, or eight, or one) hands.  My first piano teacher, Mr. Bangs (really, that was his name), was really into the stuff, and his enthusiasm spread.  He got me and brother M. to play some of the Dvorak Slavonic dances, and ever since, whenever I meet someone who is also a pianist, I work my way around to see if they're interested.

So I wonder how it is that I only found out about the overlap of these sets

just a couple of days ago? Joseph Rheinberger--friend of Brahms, teacher, composer mainly remembered for tons of organ and choral music, but also author of lots of excellent chamber and piano stuff (not to mention some good 4-hand music) decided that the Goldbergs needed to be popularized.  They're awkward to play, being written for a two-manual harpsichord, so he figured he'd split the music between two pianos.  And, being a romantic, he felt that the writing was a bit spare, so he fleshed it out, just a bit.  A few decades later, Max Reger* a composer of similar sympathies, felt that the arrangement was OK, but needed a little more.  So, there we have it.  And there it sat for a hundred years. 

Well, no matter.  Pretty much as soon as I became aware of it, I went and purchased a recording
 and downloaded the score from IMSLP.

It's fabulous, meets and exceeds expectations, scratches all my itches and pushes all my buttons.  There's a You Tube video of a few minutes of the piece, if you want to get a taste. 

*Today, Reger is most famous for his reply to a music critic: "I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. Your review is in front of me. Soon, it will be behind me."

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