The small, funky space of Salle Pianos was already closely packed when I arrived for pianist Lara Downes's CD release party, & I would not have had a seat at all if a few extra folding chairs had not been brought out at the last minute. The evening was also a benefit for Classical Revolution, who organized the event.
13 Ways of Looking at the Goldberg is composite piece in which 13 composers in each contributed an "extra" variation to Bach's Goldberg Variations. Ms. Downes began by playing the original Aria then paused between every one to two variations to talk about the music. Her playing is direct, though introspective, & she gets very absorbed in the music, often lingering slightly over phrases.
Ms. Downes described the suite as an arc, moving away from the Aria then back again, but none of the composers strayed too far from the original. Fred Lerdah's pointillist Chasing Goldberg sounds like 2 pianists playing out of sync. I liked Ms. Downes's affectionate playing of Fred Hersch's song-like Melancholy Minuet. Derek Bermenl's Kontraphunktus builds to a noisy climax, while Ryan Brown's Ornament variation stays in the top 2 octaves of the piano. The final variation by Ralf Gothóni is a fun, over-the-top, over-ornamented mash-up.
The entire performance lasted about an hour, & the appreciative audience applauded each break. Ms. Downes played a 1933 Bösendorfer & read the music off an iPad. The crowd was an unusual mix of older & younger people. The old lady in front of me demanded that I not point my cell phone at her, as she is afraid of cell phones, & she eyed me suspiciously even after I stowed the phone in my bag. Wine was available, but serving it was a difficult task for the 2 ladies at the door. After the music, the audience lined up for a pasta & salad dinner. Several of the younger audience members showed up with instrument cases. They were members of Classical Revolution, who were playing there later in the evening.
§ Lara Downes, piano
13 WAYS of Looking at the Goldberg
David del Tredici
Encore: Dave Brubeck, Chorale
October 14, 2011 7p