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Album review: Jeremy Denk, 'Goldberg Variations'

10.17.13
Jeremy Denk
SFGate

By Joshua Kosman

Classical

In a witty and eloquent blog post last year, pianist and newly minted MacArthur Fellow Jeremy Denk made the case against Bach's "Goldberg Variations," singling out the piece's flawlessness as its greatest flaw. One could make a similar objection to Denk's new recording. It's so sparkling, so suave, so emotionally rich and so playful that after a while the listener almost begins to long for a misstep of some kind. No chance. Denk's technically adroit reading of the "Goldbergs" is at once loving and slightly skeptical, without any hint of false piety, and he brings out all the beauty and ingenuity of the music. The transparency of the counterpoint, the rhetorical fervor of the melodic passages, even the dark splendor of the set's few minor-key movements - all these qualities and more come through in glorious, maddening brilliance. And as a bonus, there's a DVD in which Denk sits at the piano and talks you through some of the music's most striking aspects.

BACH

GOLDBERG VARIATIONS

JEREMY DENK

NONESUCH

$18.99