Marc Rosenfeld Antunes
mra337 [at] nyu.edu / @mcrantunes
In 1741, towards the later years of Baroque musical history, Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a collection of variations on themes for a certain harpsichord performer, Johann Gottlieb Goldberg. Today, this collection of short pieces, the Goldberg Variations, remains one of the colossal remnants of Bach’s huge body of work.
History is like a pendulum. One era a certain view is embraced, and the next the exact opposite view is embraced. If we think about how many rules and regulations governed music in the Classical era, you can imagine how the preceding Baroque era understood music. In fact, the music at the time was based on personal expression and gave value to improvisation. So it doesn’t seem surprising that highly spontaneous yet very expressive pianist Dan Tepfer, who was brought up in classical music education, decided to create his own take on Bach’s Goldberg Variations, contextualizing its pieces within a jazz setting in his Goldberg Variations/ Variations.
The album provides a dedicated rendition of the original pieces, but each variation on a theme is accompanied by a variation, or a reinterpretation of itself. In accordance with Tepfer’s involvement with jazz, each variation of a variation is, in fact, an improvisation parallel in form to its counterpart, but with all the harmonic and melodic tools developed throughout the centenary history of jazz. Though the performance of the variations is fresh and original, it is the improvisations that will get the attention of most listeners. Baroque music and jazz have much in common, and Tepfer shows just how parallel the form of Baroque music is to jazz. From basso-continuo to bass lines, from counterpoint to vertically constructed harmony, this album celebrates jazz as a valuable and authentic music form, and for this we are proud to share it with you from the 1st of November to the 7th.
Marc Antunes is a student at New York University. He writes about jazz, musicology, and sociology. Follow him on his twitter.