Variations on a classic theme
Classical pianist David Korevaar knows that classical music can seem intimidating to the layman – especially something as complex as Bach’s Goldberg Variations. But there’s an essential beauty within the extensive beauty that he thinks anyone can relate to.
“This is music that is all about pattern in a very different way – It’s not the same kind of rhetorical or romantic kind of trajectory that you get in 19th century music,” he says. “It’s much purer – that’s a dangerous word to use – but it’s a much more objective than subjective beauty. That’s not to say there’s no emotional beauty, but there’s an awful lot about the piece that are the composer and the keyboard player simply showing what’s possible, what can be done.”Korevaar even likens it to jazz playing, wherein the same bassline or chord progressions are used as building blocks to spiral out endless, diverging melodic ideas.”It’s almost like a jazz riff,” Korevaar says. “You may recognize a root song in a jazz performance, but it’s based on chord changes and a harmonic progression. Then, what’s actually going on is not a variation of a tune but of a chord progression, the same as you would find in a jazz piece. And what (Bach) does above all this is marvelous because he uses all these devices to vary the music, and they all work.”Teacher, performer, recording artistKorevaar has been on sabbatical this last semester to spend time performing around the country and the world; he’ll return to teaching at CU in the fall.
“Performing, teaching and recording all feed each other, but not having to teach has been an enjoyable luxury,” Korevaar says. “But I miss teaching because it makes you listen in a different way. You listen to talented students and it can help with your own problems – You learn from your students’ mistakes and their successes.”An early talent, Korevaar began piano studies at age six, and by 20 he had graduated from Julliard with both Bachelor’s and MAster’s degrees. He’s been part of the University of Colorado faculty since 2000. In June, Korevaar will travel to Buffalo to record the Goldberg variations for a future release on Ivory Classics.”I love that I’m going to have the opportunity to shake out the piece before I record it,” he says. “It’s an immense work – a theme and 32 sections, which is quite substantial. I haven’t actually performed the piece before, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens.”Goldberg challengesKorevaar plays a vast repertoire of music, including core 19th-century composers and French composers like Ravel and Debussy.”I love an awful lot of chamber music and a certain amount of new music,” he says. “I enjoy a very wide range of styles, and I would not be happy if I always played the same period or style. I’m eclectic in terms of likes and what I enjoy performing.”Despite his breadth, Bach’s Goldberg Variations brings a unique set of challenges to the table.
“One of the difficult things about Bach and this piece in particular is that it’s not at all clear he would’ve heard it all in his lifetime – the idea of playing it (together)completely is a 20th-century idea,” he says. “The variations are not explicit. Where there’s a clear dramatic procession to some pieces, this doesn’t have the kind of direction we expect form a single work, which makes performing it interesting.” “Most pieces, you start at the beginning and go to the end – there’s a clear dramatic argument or shape. Bach doesn’t do this, but there are chunks that are very beautiful; it’s like looking at a very beautiful pattern that just emerges from the music itself.”Arts & Entertainment writer Ted Alvarez can be reached at 748-2939 or email@example.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado