February 2021

Bach's Goldberg Variations Part Ⅱ

So, practice on the Goldberg Variations goes on.

One of the reasons that it seems never-ending is that there are so many ways to interpret each variation. There are almost no markings in the score that Bach wrote which means that tempo, dynamics, style are all up to the performer. It truly tests the player's imagination which is part of the fun but also often leaves a dilemma.

I have 4 CDs of the Goldberg Variations - one being the historic 1955 recording by Glenn Gould which I love - and they all are tremendously inspirational. I am in awe of all of them but it's interesting how I still have to search for how "I" want to play them. I have stolen some styles from some of them but there are some variations that none of them seem to be right for me. The trouble is it's not easy to find the way which I want to play. So, the search continues!

One of the things that has come out of learning this piece in depth is that I can truly appreciate the greatness of it. I recently had a chance to hear a friend perform it in concert and could really enjoy every single variation in detail - note to note. It was a very interesting experience to hear the piece so differently and also confirm how "I" interpret it.

Although it seems like a never-ending process I feel very privileged to be able to work on such an amazing piece.

I read this quote just yesterday which seemed very fitting for how I feel about working on these variations.Giacometti puts it in words beautifully.

“Everything gains in grandeur every day, becomes more and more unknown, more and more beautiful. The closer I come, the grander it is, the more remote it is.” Alberto Giacometti

Bach's Goldberg Variations Part Ⅰ

One of the projects that I had started when this pandemic began, was to really tackle Bach's Goldberg Variations. "The Goldberg Variations" are a set of 30 variations set on an Aria theme. It takes over 40 minutes to play it through without repeats and nearly an hour and a half if one were to do all the repeats! It's truly amazing how Bach was able to conjure up so many ideas from one single theme.

Because it was meant to be played on a double keyboard harpsichord it is actually technically quite tricky to play on the piano. Each variation is quite short though (1~4 minutes long) so I had been playing it as a warm up piece for ages, choosing a few of the variations before starting my main practice.

Because it's such a vast work (46 pages of music just to give you an idea) and quite hard to bring up to performance level I had never considered playing it in a concert. Therefore I had never really attempted to really go into depth with it nor memorize it.

But when the pandemic started and I had to cancel all my concerts and my teaching and was stuck at home, I decided this would be the time that I should attempt to bring it up to a level which I would be satisfied with. This has been a true blessing as it really kept me occupied! AND it still does!

The more I work on it, the more there is to do! It seems never-ending!


I cannot believe that it's already February! I thought that 2021 had just started!
I don't know why, but I'm finding it really hard to write my blog although there are so many things that I think of writing about.

Sadly this pandemic doesn't seem to be going away soon so even though we started 2021 with a great deal of hope, I guess we just have to continue to live with it until we feel safer.

We can't be grateful enough for the doctors and nurses, medical staff and essential workers who continue working for us under immense pressure. In Japan, we haven't had active ways in showing our gratitude which I'm quite sad about. Wished we had a way to show how much we appreciate them like in cities in the US and countries in Europe.