United Instruments of Lucilin

Goldberg's Ghost

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AllMusic Review by

What the listener will hear on this release from Luxembourg (notes unfortunately are only in French, English, and German, not Luxembourgish) is the opening aria, the 10 canons, the quodlibet, and the aria da capo of Bach's Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, interspersed with contemporary compositions for various small ensembles, mostly including percussion. Bach's music is distorted as well; the aria is played by a harpsichord, the canons and the quodlibet by a trio of strings (the transcription is a preexisting one, made by Russian violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky), and the final aria by the strings. There is also a hidden track, a further Goldberg variation played on the piano. The contemporary pieces were newly commissioned and composed, with the composers, an international group, tasked with interpreting the bit of Bach they were given in some way. The annotator points out that Bach's music has "something untarnishable about it that lends itself perfectly [to] the process" of this reinterpretation, and that's true enough. But the natural question of "why?" that attends a project of this kind is rather fitfully answered, despite the presence in the booklet of concepts such as "cultural industrialization" and explications like "it was a question of an 'intermediate exegesis' between composition and transcription, since these two 'genres' do not exist in a 'pure' form." The contemporary chamber pieces, which vary quite a bit in idiom, use details of Bach's variations as points of departure, such as using the beginning of a variation verbatim and then diverging from it, or using an aspect of melodic shape, tonality, texture, or mood. This is, in a way, what Bach did with his aria theme, and the composers seem to think of their works as new variations; one even uses those specific words. What gets lost in the snarl, though, is extraction, through most of the work, of Bach's canons exclusively. The effect for the general listener is that the composers have seized on indicidental features in Bach's work while ignoring its most promiment feature, and the connections holding the whole experiment together are thereby weakened. The project as a whole is beautifully executed, with the Russian transcription of Bach's canons rendered with the appropriate murky mysticism by the United Instruments of Lucilin. It is likely, however, to appeal most to listeners for whom a speculative orientation is its own justification.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Goldberg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier-Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9)
1
4:08
2
4:15
Goldberg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier-Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9)
3
2:14
4
3:54
Goldberg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier-Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9)
5
1:19
Variations (4), for piano, flute, violin, viola, cello & percussion
6
5:36
Goldberg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier-Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9)
7
1:37
8
3:35
Goldberg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier-Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9)
9
2:21
10
4:27
Goldberg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier-Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9)
11
3:14
12
2:05
Goldberg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier-Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9)
13
1:28
14
3:41
Goldberg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier-Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9)
15
2:47
Variations (4), for piano, flute, violin, viola, cello & percussion
16
2:50
Goldberg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier-Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9)
17
2:33
18
7:30
Goldberg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier-Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9)
19
2:11
20
4:27
Goldberg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier-Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9)
21
2:20
22
10:17
blue highlight denotes track pick