The usual, well-rehearsed arguments all apply to the idea of transcribing
the ‘Goldberg’ variations for string trio: on the one hand, why tamper
with such a near-perfect work of art? - on the other, Bach’s music is,
here as so often elsewhere, so astonishingly adaptable to other instruments.
Indeed, a quick survey of the score shows more than a handful of variations
in three parts, and what better way to bring out the beauties of Bach’s
part writing than giving each to a different instrument? Any keyboard
player will confirm that maintaining continuity of each part is one
of the biggest technical challenges of this work.
In the circumstances, Sitkovetsky has had a fairly straightforward
task in producing his arrangement. That it succeeds brilliantly was
in no doubt from very early in this concert. As both arranger and leader
of the exceptionally fine trio that gave this performance, he must clearly
take a large share of the credit for the occasion, but his partners
Zhislin and Chaushian deserve no less praise for their playing.
Above all, there was a tremendous sense of enjoyment - fun, even -
radiating from the platform in St Paul’s. The contrapuntal interplay
of parts and the canonical bouncing of ideas from one player to another
were a constant source of delight in the musical conversation, for audience
as much as for performers. There were smiles on all sides. But there
was also much to indulge the senses in the more lyrical passages, and
of course Sitkovetsky’s customary technical brilliance with fingers
and bow was greatly in evidence. Ensemble was terrific almost without
exception (once or at most twice there was the smallest hiatus) and
intonation was beyond reproach from all three players. A memorable evening
by any standards.
The concert was part of an imaginative, varied and surprisingly large-scale
festival, London ArtsFest 2002, taking place not only at St Paul’s but
also Wigmore Hall, South Bank Centre and other venues. Running throughout
November (until 3 December), the festival this year is featuring a wide
variety of Eastern European artists and composers under the title ‘Bridging
Cultures’. Look at www.londonartsfest.org.uk for more details.