Seung-Un Ha | The Goldberg Variations

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The Goldberg Variations

by Seung-Un Ha

One of the greatest masterpieces of all time performed with flawless artistry by a pianist of mythic intensity.
Genre: Classical: Bach
Release Date: 

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1. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Aria
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2. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 1
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3. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 2
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4. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 3: Canone all' Unisono
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5. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988:Variation 4
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6. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 5
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7. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 6: Canone alla Seconda
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8. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 7
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9. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 8
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10. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 9: Canone alla Terza
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11. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 10: Fughetta
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12. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 11
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13. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 12: Canone alla Quarta
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14. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 13
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15. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 14
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16. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 15: Canone alla Quinta
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17. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 16: Ouverture
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18. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 17
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19. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 18: Canone alla Sesta
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20. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 19
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21. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 20
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22. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 21: Canone alla Settima
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23. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 22: Alla breve
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24. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 23
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25. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 24: Canone all' Ottava
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26. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 25
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27. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 26
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28. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 27: Canone alla Nona
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29. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 28
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30. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 29
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31. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 30: Quodlibet
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32. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Aria da capo
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Aptly described as a rare combination of silk and sinew, Korean-American pianist SEUNG-UN HA is equally praised for the uncommon grace, crystalline tone and singing legato she brings to Mozart, and the power and passion she brings to Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. Her international career includes engagements with the Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Quebec, San Diego, Baltimore, Utah, Phoenix, Pasadena and Pacific Symphonies and Tulsa Philharmonic; Florida Orchestra; Germany\'s Bremen Philharmonic, France\'s Orchestre Symphonique Français, Scotland\'s Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Mexico\'s Orquesta Sinfonica de Mineria and Mexico City Philharmonic; Buenos Aires\' Orquesta de Camara Mayo and the National Symphony of Taiwan. Festival invitations include New York\'s Chautauqua (Rachmaninoff #3 under Paul Nadler), \"Mostly Mozart,\" San Francisco\'s \"Midsummer Mozart,\" Ravinia and Aspen. She made her Hollywood Bowl and Los Angeles Philharmonic debuts, performing Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, Lawrence Foster conducting., and her Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra debut, Music Director Jeffrey Kahane conducting. Other conductors with whom Ms. Ha has collaborated include Zdenek Macal, Leonard Slatkin, Joseph Silverstein, Maximiano Valdes and George Cleve. She has also offered acclaimed recitals in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Philadelphia and Detroit.

Ms. Ha began her piano studies at age three in her native Korea, giving her first public recital two years later. At seven she placed First in Seoul’s National Youth Piano Competition; at ten she and her family came to the United States, settling in Southern California. Her U.S. orchestral debut was at age thirteen with the Santa Barbara Symphony; her auspicious New York orchestral debut was in Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, Leonard Slatkin conducting the Juilliard Orchestra. Following studies with Reginald Stewart at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, she graduated from the Peabody Conservatory and The Juilliard School. Her teachers include Leon Fleisher, Martin Canin and John Perry.

The Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, by J.S. Bach has long been a favorite of Ms. Ha\'s. Recorded in 2004 in brilliant stereo with paired Neuman TLM 170 microphones, but made available to the public only now in 2008, this performance of the Goldberg Variations by Seung-Un Ha is a must have for all collectors and connoisseurs of this timeless masterpiece.


Reviews


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Wayne Scott

A very precise, fiery-tempi reading ...
So that you may have a frame of reference for my review, I am neutral on the subject of "period practice" of baroque music. If you are unfamiliar with that subject, there is an informative Wikipedia article titled "Historically Informed Performance". My neutrality has a couple of exceptions. I prefer a work written originally for harpsichord, when played on the piano, take into account the limitations of the harpsichord with respect to a shorter sustain, and less touch-responsive dynamic range. Specifically, I prefer a piano performance of harpsichord music that avoids too much pedal and excessive "drama" of pianissimo/fortissimo mood swings. Also, I wish to tell you I am not a pianist. I'll tell you what I like, what I don't, and why. But criticism of a pianist's performance from me would be ... blasphemous. There it is.

The total time for Ms. Ha's reading of Bach's Goldberg Variations weighs in at just under 40 minutes. Her tempi for the variations is very close to Glenn Gould's 1955 "landmark" recording (if you don't mind his off-key humming / mumbling), and much faster than, say, Tatiana Nikolayeva's readings which run from 70 - 78 minutes. Nikolayeva's is also a landmark recording, in my opinion. (It was her performance of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier that inspired Shostakovich to write his own set of 24 Preludes & Fugues.)

Despite the quick tempi, Seung-Un Ha's very precise, very clean attack produces (for me) a very satisfying performance. This is not a reading I would choose for late night reverie. It's a very energized performance, and very energizing listening. What I most like about this performance is that she does not get in the way of the music. Some other performances seem - to me - to be trying to project so much of their own personality (read: ego) into the music that it seems they would "re-invent" Bach, if they had their way. For example, I find a number of pianists play Variation 29 with the (perceived) intention of sforzando, or fortissimo ... as though it were Rachmaninov (Prelude #2 comes to mind), or a Busoni transcription/arrangement. But in my view, Variation 29's chords, with their double-handfuls of notes, speak for themselves, without the performer-added drama. This reading has no such over-dramatized shortcoming. Seung-hu's very even approach to the dynamics (part of what I meant by "not getting in the way of the music") is one of the things I find most satisfying. But that's just me ...