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Goldberg Variations / Variations

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Audio CD, November 8, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Dan Tepfer has created a kaleidoscopic experience with his solo album Goldberg Variations / Variations, the jazz pianist approaching J.S. Bach's masterpiece one of the classical canon's most totemic works as an inspiring font for creativity. Interspersed with his affectionate interpretation of the complete "Goldbergs" are his own improvised variations on Bach's variations. No Jacques Loussier-style swinging of the classics, Tepfer's variations are marked by a ruminative joy, spiced with contemporary dissonances and a deep feel for the source as timeless music beyond category.

Although the Goldberg Variations are beloved now as an entrancing, virtually sacred work of art, Johann Sebastian Bach published the score consisting of an "aria" and a set of 30 variations in 1741 as a keyboard study, with the piece later nicknamed for the harpsichordist who might have been its first performer. From Glenn Gould to Pierre Hantaï, the modern world's greatest classical artists have performed and recorded the "Goldbergs." Investing himself totally in music he has known since childhood, Dan Tepfer recorded his Goldberg Variations / Variations completely solo, even engineering the late-night sessions himself for total immersion in the process. The result is both utterly individual and genuinely moving.

Goldberg Variations / Variations is the 29-year-old, New York-based Tepfer's sixth album as leader or co-leader, following three heading a trio, one of solo piano improvisations, and another featuring duets with veteran saxophone luminary Lee Konitz. Known for his rare improvisational gift and a complex yet melodic approach to music-making, the prize-winning pianist has been hailed as "a player of exceptional poise" by The New York Times, while Downbeat extolled his "ability to disappear into the music as he's making it."

For those who deem Bach's music untouchable, they should remember Stravinsky's rejoinder to those who criticized his transformation of Baroque compositions in Pulcinella as disrespectful: "You `respect,' but I love," he said. As for Tepfer, he says: "What I'm doing is definitely loving. But instead of recording the Goldberg Variations and then writing lengthy liner notes about how I feel about them, I'm expressing how I feel about them in music, with my improvisations on Bach's variations. One challenge was switching gears playing this classical music that's a real test for me and for so many pianists, then the next minute really improvising and being free."

With Bach using the same chord progression throughout the Goldberg Variations, his musical process wasn't as different from jazz as it might seem. "That is really what we do in jazz, particularly when playing standards," Tepfer explains. "We take the chord progression of a tune, and it's often as simple as Bach's Aria, and we make variations on it. Lee Konitz has been playing the same tunes his whole life. One of the amazing things about him is you'll play the same song with him on tour night after night say, `All the Things You Are' and it will be really different every night. So if you recorded all of those and put them end to end, it might sound like what Bach
had done with the `Goldbergs,' taking one simple piece of material and weaving all these different emotional states into it. With my improvisations, it was a case of, how much more diversity can I get out of this chord progression? And what's really important to me as an improviser is to have a voice. So I'm reacting to Bach with my own tone, my own vocabulary."


"a fascinating and engrossing listen... [Tepfer] meets exhilaration with exhilaration... A huge and unique success." - Peter Hum --Ottawa Citizen

"On his latest album, the 29-year-old pianist not only had the audacity to play Bach s Goldberg Variations he improvised on them. The results are elegant, thoughtful, and thrilling." --New York Magazine

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
  1. Aria... 2:32$0.99  Buy MP3 
  2. Variation 10:48$0.99  Buy MP3 
  3. Improvisation 10:50$0.99  Buy MP3 
  4. Variation 20:47$0.99  Buy MP3 
  5. Improvisation 20:49$0.99  Buy MP3 
  6. Variation 3 / canon at the unison0:54$0.99  Buy MP3 
  7. Improvisation 3 / canonic 10:56$0.99  Buy MP3 
  8. Variation 40:28$0.99  Buy MP3 
  9. Improvisation 40:35$0.99  Buy MP3 
10. Variation 50:39$0.99  Buy MP3 
11. Improvisation 50:41$0.99  Buy MP3 
12. Variation 6 / canon at the second0:57$0.99  Buy MP3 
13. Improvisation 6 / canonic 20:57$0.99  Buy MP3 
14. Variation 7 1:08$0.99  Buy MP3 
15. Improvisation 7 1:13$0.99  Buy MP3 
16. Variation 80:50$0.99  Buy MP3 
17. Improvisation 80:44$0.99  Buy MP3 
18. Variation 9 / canon at the third0:38$0.99  Buy MP3 
19. Improvisation 9 / thirds0:40$0.99  Buy MP3 
20. Variation 10 / fughetta0:50$0.99  Buy MP3 
21. Improvisation 10 / fuguelike0:57$0.99  Buy MP3 
22. Variation 110:59$0.99  Buy MP3 
23. Improvisation 11 1:06$0.99  Buy MP3 
24. Variation 12 / canon at the fourth 1:17$0.99  Buy MP3 
25. Improvisation 12 / obsessive 1:36$0.99  Buy MP3 
26. Variation 13 2:48$0.99  Buy MP3 
27. Improvisation 13 1:49$0.99  Buy MP3 
28. Variation 14 1:08$0.99  Buy MP3 
29. Improvisation 14 1:29$0.99  Buy MP3 
30. Variation 15 / canon at the fifth 2:09$0.99  Buy MP3 
31. Improvisation 15 / canonic 5 2:25$0.99  Buy MP3 
32. Variation 16 / ouverture 1:32$0.99  Buy MP3 
33. Improvisation 16 1:14$0.99  Buy MP3 
34. Variation 17 1:00$0.99  Buy MP3 
35. Improvisation 17 1:24$0.99  Buy MP3 
36. Variation 18 / canon at the sixth0:48$0.99  Buy MP3 
37. Improvisation 18 / sixths0:50$0.99  Buy MP3 
38. Variation 190:34$0.99  Buy MP3 
39. Improvisation 190:51$0.99  Buy MP3 
40. Variation 20 1:00$0.99  Buy MP3 
41. Improvisation 20 1:03$0.99  Buy MP3 
42. Variation 21 / canon at the seventh 1:37$0.99  Buy MP3 
43. Improvisation 21 / sevenths 2:00$0.99  Buy MP3 
44. Variation 220:45$0.99  Buy MP3 
45. Improvisation 220:48$0.99  Buy MP3 
46. Variation 23 1:12$0.99  Buy MP3 
47. Improvisation 230:51$0.99  Buy MP3 
48. Variation 24 / canon at the octave 1:23$0.99  Buy MP3 
49. Improvisation 24 / canonic 8 1:13$0.99  Buy MP3 
50. Variation 25 3:40$0.99  Buy MP3 
51. Improvisation 25 3:41$0.99  Buy MP3 
52. Variation 26 1:01$0.99  Buy MP3 
53. Improvisation 26 1:19$0.99  Buy MP3 
54. Variation 27 / canon at the ninth 1:06$0.99  Buy MP3 
55. Improvisation 27 1:13$0.99  Buy MP3 
56. Variation 28 1:12$0.99  Buy MP3 
57. Improvisation 28 1:07$0.99  Buy MP3 
58. Variation 29 1:05$0.99  Buy MP3 
59. Improvisation 290:46$0.99  Buy MP3 
60. Variation 30 / quodlibet 1:06$0.99  Buy MP3 
61. Improvisation 30 / mashup 1:07$0.99  Buy MP3 
62. ...Aria 3:02$0.99  Buy MP3 

Product Details

  • Audio CD (November 8, 2011)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sunnyside Records
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,569 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Robert Carraher on November 14, 2011
Format: Audio CD
Dan Tepfer is one of the most formidable jazz pianists on the international stage and hailed as such by press on every continent you can keep a piano in tune (Antarctica does not qualify). He has owned the spotlight the world over, from his solo work to full orchestra performances, and his improve skills are awe inspiring. His style is more melodic, he's not one to display his technical prowess through big blasts of dissonance and drama. This comes to the listeners ear as playful, fun, sexy and just beautiful. There is such a rainbow of musical colors that it takes you away before you even knew you were packed.

He has chronicled his talents on the solo disc Twelve Free Improvisations in Twelve Keys (2009) as well as the trio sessions Before the Storm (2005), Oxygen (2007) and Five Pedals Deep . Here, he brings that melodic lyricism to JS Bach's Goldberg Variations. To tackle the masters iconic work is a pretty ambitious ideal, but Tepfer is more than equal to the task. This is no popular music take on Bach, so don't expect A 5th Of Beethoven or Hooked On Bach. This is a masterful pianist, a classically trained pianist and a young man who has been praised wherever he has graced the ears of jazz and classical fans giving us a respectful and affectionate interpretation of the complete "Goldbergs" and interspersed are his improv variations on Bach's Variations...did that make sense?

For Tepfer, this was no "romp" through the play ground, no playful process for showing off. He disappears into the music and I am told that he even engineered this disk himself to further immerse himself in the pieces and the project. In between Bach's own variations are Tepfer's improvisation and though true to the original you can feel the kiss of jazz. Wonderful stuff. My advice to you. Grab a good book, and put this album on and get lost in a marvelous disk.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By lavd on February 24, 2012
Format: Audio CD
.... but was won over after a few cuts of this marvelous recording. It is true that Tepfer's interpretation of the Goldberg is Romantic, which is not my favorite mode. His playing, however, is forceful without being forced and thoroughly elegant. In this manner his own improvisations are jazz extensions of the Bach rather than jarring reinterpretations. On occasion, however, he succumbs to Keith Jarrett's malady of humming along to his own improvisations, a habit which I find sometimes detracts from the brilliance of the music itself. That, however, does not deter me from recommending this to lovers of Bach and jazz. While this may not be the ultimate interpretation of the Goldberg Variations, it is a worthy addition to those who have recorded them in the past.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By bln on December 21, 2011
Format: Audio CD
This is a beautiful CD that will give you a fresh perspective on the venerable Goldberg variations: beyond Dan Tepfer's interpretation of Bach's work, you get a creative insight into what you just heard by listening to how one dimension or another in the original variation gives rise to a new piece. It's like peeking into the essence of inspiration. Variations on the variations, or meta-variations, if you will!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By T.E.A. on December 20, 2011
Format: Audio CD
Dan Tepfer's Goldbergs are lovely and precise. The Variations themselves possess an Attic clarity, which relay as much acuity and restraint as the Improvisations do a willingness to be unruly. Riffing on Bach is presumptuous, as are most of the best engagements with existing art. This album does it boldly and gracefully. Go get a copy and enjoy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Eugene J. Niemierzycki on June 12, 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I have been listening to some great piano music performed/composed by a few relatively unknown artists. Some of it falls this side of classical, while other falls that side of jazz. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, I say. But it's no hodge podge. It isn't cheap fare. It is serious music in its own right. And much of it is improvised:

Tord Gustavsen Trio: The Well, Being There, The Ground, Changing Places. (you can't go wrong with any of these; he's one of my favorites)
Pieranunzi, Enrico: Jazz Improvisations
Dan Tepfer: Goldberg Variations, Five Pedals...
Stenson, Bobo: Serenity
Fort, Anat: A Long Story

Hopefully you will find the commonality I have found among these artists, but most importantly, love and enjoy it!

PS. The list is not entirely complete; I have been listening to Venezuela native Gabriela Montero. Ms. Montero's playing is Romantic - - warm, sensual, nostalgic, longing... The darndest thing is that I'm always drawn to her no matter what I'm involved with at the time. Montero playing has a quality that leaves an indelible mark in your subconscious. But be warned, this is not "straight" classical music. Ms. Montero is an improviser, but her music is so seamless, and the pieces work so well, that you feel as if they had been created like that all along in spite of the fact that she's playing another another Chopin, another Faure, not that much different from the first Bach,the first Chopin, etc.

Her recordings in chronological are:
Chopin, Falla, Ginastera, et al., 2005
Bach and Beyond, 2006
Baroque Album, 2007

I recommend Glenn Gould's interpretation of Bach's Goldberg Variations on Sony, "The Historic 1955 Debut Recording, etc." as a contrast to Montero style.
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