CD Reviews | CTD (Briefly Noted) | JFL (Dip Your Ears) | DVD Reviews


Briefly Noted: Parfenov's Goldberg Riff

available at Amazon
Bach, Goldberg Variations / Parfenov, New Goldberg Variations, A. Parfenov

(released on July 19, 2019)
Naxos 8.551399 | 79'50"
André Parfenov, born in Kaliningrad in 1972, is in the line of composer-pianists that includes Lera Auerbach, among others. The Russian-born composer resettled in Germany, where he has been working at the Theater in Mönchengladbach/Krefeld, including a collaboration creating original ballet scores for the choreographies of Robert North. This new recording combines his performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations with his own New Goldberg Variations, a set of reactions to the famous Bach work.

Parfenov's Bach is somewhat rough-hewn, with plenty of sustaining pedal and rubato. The playing is heavy-handed, meaning both a deficit in terms of refinement and some striking differentiation of polyphonic voices in the canons and double-keyboard variations. The "Quodlibet" is quite striking in this regard, with the popular song fragments popping out of the texture in unexpected ways. Both performances fit in the space of a single disc in part because Parfenov eschews the repeats, meaning that ornamentation is limited.

In his composer's note, printed only in German, Parfenov makes a point of discussing the polyphonic dimensions of Bach's work. This element permeates his tribute variations as well, which often dwell on contrapuntal expansion, as in his version of the aria with an imitation of the melody at the fifth added like a ghostly echo. Other variations create otherworldly effects, like the harp-strumming washes of sound produced directly on the piano strings in the Introduction. Further highlights include the Debussy-like moto perpetuo of the "Tonale arpeggio" variation, the Bartók barbarism of the "Quarten," and the clanging bells of "Overture: Kirchenglocken." Stylistically, Parfenov veers among various poles, from tonality to jazz to atonality and back again.

No comments: