Pius Cheung

J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations

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At first blush, performing J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations on marimba may seem an odd match, not merely because the instrument is an unusual choice, as opposed to the conventional piano or harpsichord, but also because its rich, dark tone is an acquired taste and a bit much for a work of over 50 minutes. But Pius Cheung demonstrates a remarkable ability to adapt the Goldberg Variations to the marimba that keeps it interesting for much longer than most would imagine, thanks to his fine sense of contrapuntal lines, sensitivity to timbral variety, and control of dynamics. Does his skill make this recording the only Goldberg Variations anybody ever needs? Certainly not, as one may note the vast plentitude of recordings on the market by some of the greatest musicians of our time, as well as many more of less musicality but decent playing and adequate sound quality. But Cheung's 2006 recording shows the continual adaptability of Bach's music to unexpected instrumentation, and because the marimba is a warm and mellow instrument, it lends this familiar work a special depth and dimension that some listeners will find inviting and comforting. However, most others will find this CD more suitable for relaxation purposes than for appreciating Bach's music as it was intended.

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