Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
The Goldberg Variations BWV 988, Clavierübung IV (1742)
transcribed for and performed on solo guitar by JÓZSEF EÖTVÖS
Chia Han-Leon / Singapore
This admirable and beautiful effort by Hungarian guitarist József Eötvös (b.1962) is an essential investment for any Goldberg Variations fan, or Bach worshipper. Not only is the music faithfully (I think almost religiously) transcribed, but the playing is of a very high order, extremely natural, inspiringly beautiful.
Recall my review of Kurt Rodarmer's multiple-guitar transcription (but played alone, then mixed) of the Goldberg in an earlier review - in that version, it can be said that Rodarmer is doing his best to physically capture as much of the original keyboard music. Given, as Rodarmer points out, the difficulty of playing a 10-fingered keyboard work on a guitar with only one hand, it is already quite a thing to transcribe the entire Goldberg for that instrument.
But here, forced or inspired by the music, Eötvös' transcription distills the purest essence of Bach and the Goldberg into a transciption for solo guitar. And truly, I must say, the result is a work of high art that not only does complete justice to but utterly refreshes the music; it is a glorious effort worthy of the name of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Eötvös' sense of the musical Bach line (here comes my interpretation, Yeuk Fan) is very very satisfying, clear but never rigid or monochrome. Let us say that the result you will hear on this disc is the so-many lines of the keyboard original distilled into the lesser (in number) lines of the guitar. The music becomes more essentialised, purer, more concentrated because of this. Not that the original is in any way excessive, but the solo guitar version is, as presented here, like a poetic synopsis. From each line, the transcriber must select the most "essential" bits and reform them to recreate the music, but with less overall material.
It is like, if Bach used four colours to paint a picture, now Eötvös repaints the same picture with two colours. In theory, if a picture is done with only two colours, the difference between the two is the line between one colour and the other. This, expressed in music, may perhaps be a crude visual expression of the Bach line. It is not a thin black "line" per se, but the interaction of a number of lines/colours to create a singular picture. Bach is of course not the only composer who could write beautiful lines, but he is also one of the most intricate and inspiring, like Baroque architecture.