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Landmark recording of Goldberg Variations conducted by Trevor Pinnock caps Glenn Gould School partne

Landmark recording of Goldberg Variations conducted by Trevor Pinnock caps Glenn Gould School partnership

Published on October 8, 2020

A high note in an extraordinary two-year trans-Atlantic collaboration with the Royal Academy of Music

GGS Goldberg Variations Album Cover


In May 2019, a group of gifted musicians from The Glenn Gould School and The Royal Academy of Music performed Józef Koffler’s extraordinary arrangement of J. S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations at London’s Wigmore Hall. Their landmark recording of the work, under the direction of noted conductor and harpsichordist, Trevor Pinnock, was released today. 

The performance was a high note in an extraordinary two-year trans-Atlantic partnership between the Royal Academy of Music and The Glenn Gould School, which explored music marginalized following the Second World War. 

“It is fitting that students of The Glenn Gould School have participated in this fruitful collaboration, as our organization has long supported and advocated for the research and recovery of music by exiled composers,” said Dr. Peter Simon, Michael and Sonja Koerner President & CEO of The Royal Conservatory. 

“In addition to world-class performances on international stages, such as last year’s Wigmore Hall event, through the cultural ambassadorship of our ARC Ensemble, a growing number of previously unknown masterworks have rejoined the repertoire.” 

Józef Koffler was at the forefront of Poland’s avant-garde but political pressure forced him to redirect his creative energy, and the arrangement of the Goldberg Variations was one of the outcomes of this artistic suppression. Originally composed for a two manual harpsichord, Koffler’s ingenious adaptation, completed in 1938, is scored for flute, oboe, English horn, bassoon and strings. The present recording, conducted by Trevor Pinnock, is its first commercial release.

In Koffler’s arrangement of the Goldberg Variations, a work that was made famous by pianist and RCM alumnus Glenn Gould, “the combination of his own modernist sensibility and his clear respect for the Baroque produces a compelling score, which is beautifully realised by Pinnock and his young players”, says a rave review from The Herald (Scotland).

The album cover features the activities of tightly-knit community in a Jewish village that was common throughout eastern Europe before the Holocaust and was painted by Chara Kowalska who was arrested by the Gestapo and then killed. “That attention to detail in the packaging is only appropriate for what is a revelatory recording of the familiar keyboard work,” concludes The Herald review.  “It is almost impossible to imagine seasoned professionals performing it better.” 

Listen to Aria from “J. S. Bach: Goldberg Variations (arranged for small orchestra by Józef Koffler)” by Trevor Pinnock, Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble, and The Glenn Gould School, which will be available for purchase at the RCM Shop

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