Goldberg Variations at The Red Hedgehog

Goldberg Variations, BWV988

Masachi Nishiyama (piano)

Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers

Reviewed: 8 July, 2007
Venue: The Red Hedgehog, Highgate, London N6

The young Japanese pianist Masachi Nishiyama is a pupil of Yonty Solomon. She had performed Goldberg Variations at this café/music-venue the night before and this account (on a Sunday afternoon) was compromised by the taking of an interval (after the ‘Canon alla quinta’), which broke the continuity of the piece. She observed all of the repeats.

Her approach to the opening ‘Aria’ set the mood perfectly: not too laden with emotion but suitably calming and anticipating what was to come. What Nishiyama found difficult in execution was the rapid writing, and here the repeats allowed her to get it right the second time round. The more expansive Variations, such the ‘Black Pearl’ (XV), demonstrated superb control and sympathy with the music, the latter in particular having a desolate, empty (in the best sense) feel.

Almost by stealth did she establish the bleak mood of the slower Variations whereas the more buoyant ones were hammered out as successfully as she could, though some were too loud for this venue. The ‘quicksliver’ Variations had a virtuoso feel, but in the contrapuntal episodes of others one suspects that a two-manual harpsichord, which is what the Goldbergs were written for, would have allowed Nishiyama to give clarity to the hand-crossing episodes.

Overall, this was an account that felt rather long, so more variegation when taking repeats is necessary. It was, nevertheless, engaging.

On a personal note, may I add that my visits to The Red Hedgehog throughout this, its first season, have all been excellent occasions, with world-class musicians playing superbly. It is a great credit to the proprietor that she is able to attract artists of this calibre and that they want to return.

  • The Red Hedgehog
  • The Red Hedgehog is situated at 255-257 Archway Road, Highgate, London, N6 5BS
  • Box Office: 020 8348 5050

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