Ever since his landmark recordings (over six million albums were sold) made with the Play Bach Trio in the '60s, the name of classically-trained pianist/composer Jacques Loussier has been linked with that of the great master of Western music. Known for his unique and compelling jazz improvisations on Bach's works, Loussier here takes on, for the first time ever, the magnificent and technically daunting Goldberg Variations.
Bach's original title for the work was simply "Aria with diverse variations," which is exactly what the piece contains—an Aria, written over a thirty-two bar bass pattern, followed by a set of thirty variations on that theme. The variations contain some of the most rhythmically complex and technically demanding music of any of his compositions, often employing two against three beats, numerous canons or rounds, and in one section of the twenty-sixth variation, setting eighteen sixteenth-notes over a pattern of three slow beats.
"This material is challenging for anyone who wants to play it on the piano," says Loussier. "Bach wrote it for the harpsichord, an instrument with two keyboards…On the piano, both hands are operating in the same range, so there is a constant danger of entanglement. I have re-voiced some of the music to avoid this…to make the music technically playable."
Loussier and his trio have kept the sense and style of the great work intact, retaining the feeling of each variation as a miniature, mainly using rhythm and color to bring their distinctive identity to each movement, making this album one of their more introspective achievements. In movements four and eleven, the full force of their swinging, jazz-flavored improvisations comes to the fore.
Previous releases Loussier and his new trio have made for Telarc have also explored music of other composers, including Vivaldi (The Four Seasons, CD-83417); Satie (Gymnopedies/ Gnossiennes, CD-83431); and Ravel (Bolero, CD-83466). "By returning to Bach, the music that is closest to my heart, after playing the works of other composers," says Loussier, "I think I have brought some new interpretive ideas to the trio's playing…my recent projects have brought new depth and ideas to my approach to Bach."