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Víkingur Ólafsson|J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations

J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations

Víkingur Ólafsson

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Complete recordings of great works such as Bach’s sonatas, his “Well-Tempered Clavier,” or Chopin’s “24 Preludes” occupy a unique place within the history of musical recording. It’s in their entirety that they are most unique and powerful, whereas in the purity of their repertoire, individual pieces are generally regarded as being largely heterogeneous. These timeless compositions transcend their authors and are given new life with each interpretation, and such is the case with Bach’s “Goldberg Variations.” 


Published in 1741, as the fourth and last part of his Clavier-Übung, the “Goldberg Variations” still remain, almost 300 years later, amongst the baroque master’s most important works, not only for the history of musical composition and recording in general (Glenn Gould, Trevor Pinnock, Rosalyn Tureck, and many others come to mind), but also for Víkingur Ólafsson in particular. “I’ve been dreaming of recording this work for 25 years,” says the Icelandic pianist, thus confirming that these studies are more a life’s work than a whim.


Beginning with a melody that’s simple in appearance, the work is spread over a total of 30 variations, becoming a masterpiece of complexity. Determined, at surface level, by a rigid formal framework, the material itself nevertheless demands a “sort of interpretive improvisation”. Ólafsson recognises this paradox and makes it his own not by interpreting the different variations with technical precision and a strict loyalty to the metronome, but rather by following cyclical impulses and organic interpretation. At the same time, he evolves with the work and transcends it, whether in the creativity of the fugues or the complexity of the different canons, which influence one another, rely on one another, and, finally, like a parabola, return to the first melody and the beginning of all that had transpired previously -  like the ebb and flow of the Icelandic ocean, whose waves we know will always return to shore, but whose calm or strength we can never be sure of. © Lena Germann/Qobuz

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J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations

Víkingur Ólafsson

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Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 (Johann Sebastian Bach)

1
Aria
00:04:05

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

2
Var. 1
00:01:30

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

3
Var. 2
00:01:25

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

4
Var. 3
00:01:50

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

5
Var. 4
00:00:56

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

6
Var. 5
00:01:11

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

7
Var. 6
00:01:08

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

8
Var. 7
00:02:12

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

9
Var. 8
00:01:37

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

10
Var. 9
00:01:36

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

11
Var. 10
00:01:32

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

12
Var. 11
00:01:40

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

13
Var. 12
00:01:52

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

14
Var. 13
00:04:06

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

15
Var. 14
00:02:02

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

16
Var. 15
00:05:37

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

17
Var. 16
00:02:40

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

18
Var. 17
00:01:55

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

19
Var. 18
00:01:27

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

20
Var. 19
00:01:07

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

21
Var. 20
00:01:49

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

22
Var. 21
00:03:15

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

23
Var. 22
00:01:16

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

24
Var. 23
00:01:54

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

25
Var. 24
00:02:48

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

26
Var. 25
00:09:48

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

27
Var. 26
00:01:43

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

28
Var. 27
00:01:31

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

29
Var. 28
00:02:04

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

30
Var. 29
00:01:47

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

31
Var. 30
00:01:56

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

32
Aria da Capo
00:02:35

Johann Sebastian Bach, Composer - Christopher Tarnow, Producer, Mixer, Mastering Engineer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin

Album review

Complete recordings of great works such as Bach’s sonatas, his “Well-Tempered Clavier,” or Chopin’s “24 Preludes” occupy a unique place within the history of musical recording. It’s in their entirety that they are most unique and powerful, whereas in the purity of their repertoire, individual pieces are generally regarded as being largely heterogeneous. These timeless compositions transcend their authors and are given new life with each interpretation, and such is the case with Bach’s “Goldberg Variations.” 


Published in 1741, as the fourth and last part of his Clavier-Übung, the “Goldberg Variations” still remain, almost 300 years later, amongst the baroque master’s most important works, not only for the history of musical composition and recording in general (Glenn Gould, Trevor Pinnock, Rosalyn Tureck, and many others come to mind), but also for Víkingur Ólafsson in particular. “I’ve been dreaming of recording this work for 25 years,” says the Icelandic pianist, thus confirming that these studies are more a life’s work than a whim.


Beginning with a melody that’s simple in appearance, the work is spread over a total of 30 variations, becoming a masterpiece of complexity. Determined, at surface level, by a rigid formal framework, the material itself nevertheless demands a “sort of interpretive improvisation”. Ólafsson recognises this paradox and makes it his own not by interpreting the different variations with technical precision and a strict loyalty to the metronome, but rather by following cyclical impulses and organic interpretation. At the same time, he evolves with the work and transcends it, whether in the creativity of the fugues or the complexity of the different canons, which influence one another, rely on one another, and, finally, like a parabola, return to the first melody and the beginning of all that had transpired previously -  like the ebb and flow of the Icelandic ocean, whose waves we know will always return to shore, but whose calm or strength we can never be sure of. © Lena Germann/Qobuz

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