Through a collaborative arranging process, the Catalyst Quartet has created the first fully realized 4-voiced version of the Goldberg Variations for string quartet. The album features this special contribution to the string quartet repertoire along with Glenn Gould's only published composition, his String Quartet Op. 1, completed just before recording his own debut album of the Goldberg Variations in 1955. Having been collectively inspired by Bach’s genius and Glenn Gould, the artist responsible for bringing the Variations into our collective consciousness, we have decided to explore and highlight this three dimensional relationship amongst Bach, Glenn Gould, and the medium of the string quartet.
It all began on a car ride on tour through the rolling California hills during a typical YouTube binge, when we came across a recording of the Glenn Gould String Quartet. We were delighted to discover this work that was new to us at the time, not knowing that the artist who was so revered for his unabashed interpretations of Bach (and others) had also composed a monumental 40 minute soliloquy for string quartet. How could we help celebrate Gould’s contribution to the string quartet repertoire and also contribute to the repertoire in a way that continues his legacy of unbound creativity? So we took to the manuscript ourselves and began arranging the Goldberg Variations in a way that highlights the string quartet and its capacity for dynamic interplay, with a focus on highlighting the inherent counterpoint that is true to the nature of Bach’s music.
Over the course of about a year and half, we arranged, edited, worked, interpreted, RE-interpreted, and RE-edited the entire 30 Variations and Aria. With our eyes set on the recording, we went to Aldeburgh, England in January 2014 for a residency under the auspices of the Britten-Pears Programme with renowned cellist and Bach interpreter Pieter Wispelwey. There we completed our first run of the work to a very enthusiastic seaside crowd (they even STOMPED at the end of the performance!). Overall, the project has changed us deeply, in the way we approach interpreting the works of Bach, and also in our profound respect for the musical impact and integrity of Glenn Gould. We hope to share and offer this perspective to all and anyone who is willing to listen and to experience this unique and complex musical feast.