When I first wrote my transcription of Bach’s Goldberg Variations for String Trio, in 1984, it was both a labour of love and an obsession with the 1981 Glenn Gould recording. For two months I probably had the time of my life, musically speaking, being in the constant company of Johann Sebastian Bach and Glenn Gould.
Generally, at that time, transcriptions were out of fashion and I recall that my own colleagues and managers were sceptical about such an audacious idea.
Since then my transcriptions have been played all over the world, and moreover they have opened the floodgates of new interpretive possibilities for the piece which have included solo harp, wind instruments of all kinds, saxophone quartets, Renaissance viols and even a fascinating concoction of Uri Caine, among many others.
By the time 2009 arrived I felt that this was the right moment to re-visit and somewhat re-examine my original transcription. It was 25 years after the piece was first transcribed, I had performed it many times and heard different adaptations of it, so I felt the need to return to a simpler version with hardly any repeats at all.
I have made some changes in orchestration, probably influenced by my String Orchestra transcription of 1992, but most of all I tried to inject some fresh, youthful energy to propel the piece from the beginning to end. As a result there was still room left for my old/new friends, 15 Sinfonias, which have always been in my mind to be played and recorded, and this was a welcome bonus for me and my talented young colleagues, Yuri Zhislin and Luigi Piovano.
I hope listeners will share in my life-long journey through the Goldberg Variations and my love of the music, indeed in the very first publication of the Variations, in 1742, J. S. Bach states that the spirit of the piece is “for the enjoyment of music lovers”.