In 2007 the husband-and-wife team TwoPianists ‘burst onto the scene’ (James Harrington, American Record Guide) with their double-disc The Complete Works for Two Pianos by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Two years later, proving their success was no fluke, the couple released another stellar disc, simply entitled TwoPianists. What followed was ordinary yet significant: life, children, company (they are founders of TwoPianists Records) and health. It is therefore with immense pride that TwoPianists presents the Bach Goldberg Variations in the formidable arrangement done for two pianos by Reger and Rheinberger.
In the realm of music criticism and scholarship, Bach’s music is often hailed as the epitome of functional musical logic. Every note has its place, every chord has its function, and all musical elements are combined in a masterful display of contrapuntal craft with few recognised rivals. But despite the intellectual reverence to which Bach’s music is subjected, musicians are still able to find themselves intimately and affectively involved with his compositions.
The pianistic appropriation of Bach prompts a natural question: if we take the liberty of playing Bach’s harpsichord and organ works on modern concert pianos, are we not violating the composer’s artistic intentions? And if we commit ourselves to this anachronistic exception on as basic a question as instrumentation, what grounds have we to make other judgements about what is stylistically appropriate? To what extent should one follow the directions of the score, if the score fails to unambiguously specify the composer’s intentions? Should period-style ornamentation be used, and should it be used throughout the performance? Should all repeats be observed, and how should one treat phrasing with regard to tempo? Where should the musical work dominate the expressive tendencies of the players, and where should the opposite hold true?
These questions are thrown into even sharper relief on this recording of the Goldberg Variations, because the arrangement being played is not of Bach’s doing but rather the Reger edition of Rheinberger’s duo arrangement. Thus, the score upon which the present recording is based is something of a joint effort between Bach in the early 1740s, and Rheinberger and Reger about a century and a half later. And, as is very much the case, a significant interpretative contribution has been made by the performers themselves: pianists on the southern tip of Africa in the early 21st century.