variations and improvisations

Last night we saw Konstantin Lifschitz and Paul Grabowsky peform Bach’s Goldberg Variations on the Steinway at the Perth Concert Hall. The event was titled JS Bach’s Goldberg Variations (& Improvisations) and forms part of The UWA Perth International Arts Festival.

Some people returned their tickets when Iiro Rantala was replaced by Paul Grabowsky. Which was good for us, because instead of seats way back and off to the side, they were fairly close and off centre, so we had a great view of the keyboard and the whole stage.

Lifschitz began the performance, and while the Goldberg Variations is an amazing piece to listen to in itself, I found myself primarily watching Lifschitz’s hands on the keyboard. They literally danced. Lots of cross-hands and working under and over each other. I would also add that Lifschitz had no music, but then again I’m not sure when he would have had the opportunity to turn the page.

As we went out during the interval, I was thinking how can Grabowsky follow that beginning?

Grabowsky definitely brought the Goldberg Variations into the 21st century with his jazz variations. Sometimes discordant, but it was playful and I thought of larrikinism. Again, being able to watch hands on the keyboard really added to the enjoyment of the performance. This time though, I found I wanted to tap my feet as well.

There are 32 movements and both Lifschitz and Grabowsky performed for nearly an hour. The most difficult part of the evening, was saving any applause until they had each finished playing this long piece.

Lindy Hume (Festival Artistic Director) introduced the performance by saying that experimenting is what festivals were about. And, I think the results of this experiment, i.e. performance of classical piece followed by jazz improvisations were excellent and the format of the event is definitely worth repeating.


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