Stories » Lara Downes breaks ground in a fascinating new take on Bach's masterpiece: '13 WAYS of Looking at the Goldberg'

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Lara Downes breaks ground in a fascinating new take on Bach's masterpiece: '13 WAYS of Looking at the Goldberg'

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In June of 1955, Glenn Gould made his groundbreaking recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations for Columbia Records, rescuing the Goldbergs from obscurity in one of the most significant classical recordings of a generation. This September, critically acclaimed pianist Lara Downes will be breaking ground of her own when Tritone Records releases her new CD 13 WAYS of Looking at the Goldberg, a fascinating new take on Bach's masterpiece. In an extraordinary coincidence of fate and timing, Lara's recording of her new Goldberg project took place over the same four days in June as Gould's historic 1955 sessions.
 
13 WAYS is a set of thirteen new "re-imaginings" of the magnificent Aria from the Goldberg Variations, commissioned in 2004 by the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival. The thirteen composers who contributed to the project include 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Higdon, Lukas Foss, David del Tredici, William Bolcom, Fred Hersch and Derek Bermel.
 
These brilliant contemporary voices invoke the Goldbergs in broadly different ways, celebrating both the eternal beauty of Bach's music and the musical evolutions of the past 250 years. In what she calls a "wonderfully imaginative musical journey", Downes interprets these brilliant variations that range in mood from lyrical to tempestuous, traveling from neo-romanticism to jazz and back again to a Bachian contrapuntalism.
 
On a personal level, Downes, who says she was "weaned as a baby" on Gould's recording, dedicates her new CD jointly to the memory of Gould and of her father, also named Glenn, who first introduced her to Gould and the Goldbergs. Known for her visionary, cutting-edge performances worldwide, and praised for her "unique blend of musicianship and showmanship" (NPR) and sense of "nuance and drama" (Washington Post), Downes has already garnered acclaim for 13 WAYS. At its concert debut this summer at the Portland Piano International Festival, The Oregonian wrote "Lara Downes shines with electric playing of updated Goldberg Variations."
 
With upcoming performances scheduled this Fall at the International Beethoven Project Festival in Chicago, Cornelia Street Caf? in NYC, the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts in California, and the El Paso Pro Musica Festival in Texas, among other stops, Downes is bringing these "new Goldbergs" to audiences across the country, in her own exhilarating, exceptional and always unexpected way.
 
This world-premiere recording also features Bach-inspired works by Dave Brubeck (Chorale, from Chromatic Fantasy Sonata) and Lukas Foss (Prelude in D), and closes with a poetic reading of Bach's Sarabande from the 5th French Suite.