Getting your head around the "Goldberg Variations" is like explaining the Milky Wayby Sam Knight / February 25, 2013 / Leave a comment
I don’t listen to enough live music, but who does? And of the tiny amount of live music that I do go and see/hear, it’s even rarer that it is the real core material, the songs closest to the heart. I can think of only one or two experiences of that kind, and they have been almost as unsettling as straightforwardly enjoyable. I couldn’t really believe what was happening when Dylan began to bark out “Desolation Row” in his gondolier’s hat and minimal moustache. You? Genius? Here? In Brixton? It didn’t quite compute.
So I just don’t think I had many cultural or emotional references when we booked to go and see the Goldberg Variations at Kings Place last month. Incidentally, what is even the right verb here? Do you listen to live music, see it, hear it, or just go to it? I know that you hear evensong, and I can see how classical music might fall into that usage, but I am not sure that you hear Bach. You certainly don’t see it/him or “go.” Who is travelling towards who? (On balance, I think you probably listen to Bach. You try to hear. You hope to hear.) Anyway, we really didn’t think very much about the whole deal. We looked at the listings for Bach Unwrapped. Got excited. Clicked on the Goldberg Variations dates. Love Goldberg Variations. Listen to Goldberg Variations a lot. In the car. In the flat. Got nephew a book for Christmas purely because the title was a pun on the Goldberg Variations. Also got nephew the Goldberg Variations (Glenn Gould, 1955). Nephew two months old. Never too young for Goldberg Variations. Anyway, we got tickets in the front row, went about our business, occasionally said things like, “Can’t believe we’re going to Bach this week,” and turned up a few minutes before it began.
If you haven’t been to Kings Place, it’s a bit like being inserted into the chamber of some large, as-yet-uninvented wooden instrument. We sat down, everyone was older than us, and then Miki Skuta, the pianist, appeared through a doorway onto the stage. In pictures, Mikuláš Škuta (Slovakian) looks like the knowledgeable virtuoso that he is. His website says it: “All-out gifted…