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Interactive Variations: OBF launches new site

  • Jun 12, 2012
The Oregon Bach Festival's new, in-depth interactive exploration of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations takes listeners to places they’ve never been before—at least among places on the Internet. Now online at DigitalBach.com, Cuepoints: The Goldberg Variations is the work of scholars, artists, and performers. It integrates two world-class recordings—including a harpsichord performance by Matthew Halls, the Oregon Bach Festival’s artistic director designate—a fully annotated, movement-by movement analysis, and a follow-along, animated first-edition score, all of which enable viewers to experience the fullest scope of this pinnacle of the theme-and-variations form. The new Goldberg Variations chapter augments the current site’s trailblazing score analysis and HD video performances of Helmuth Rilling’s 2010 OBF lecture-concerts of the Bach B Minor Mass. At the heart of the Goldberg treasure is a Flash animation component developed and programmed by music theorist Tim Smith, a D.M.A. graduate of the University of Oregon’s music school and a member of the music faculty of Northern Arizona University. The June 12 launch of the site is part of the Oregon Bach Festival’s celebration of the Goldbergs as one its major 2012 concert themes, spurred by the double anniversary year of Glenn Gould (1932-1982) the enigmatic pianist so closely associated with the Variations. This celebration begins with four concerts (in four cities) by the Portland Baroque Orchestra of Dmitri Sitkovetsky’s string arrangement and ends with the work in piano recital by Angela Hewitt (sold out). It also includes the Hinkle Seminar panel presentation by Halls, Hewitt, and Smith, and a week-long run of two award-winning films at Eugene’s Bijou Art Cinemas, Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, and The Genius Within. “Certainly, the new site serves as a brilliant entry to this summer’s concerts,” said John Evans, OBF President and Executive Director. “Yet we have always had education at our core. Tim’s site continues that tradition. It offers the latest scholarship on the Variations in a way that can be accessible to anyone, with any level of experience, anywhere in the world, at any time, in a way that illuminates Bach’s genius.” In Bach’s great work, which he originally published as the fourth volume of a comprehensive keyboard practice, he applied all the styles, hues, and effects of his rich compositional palette. Its thirty variations are in sets of threes, with each set containing a dance-like character piece, a virtuoso variation, and, in tribute to the contrapuntal styles of his predecessors, a canon. Smith’s Cuepoints site parallels the tripartite form in its own content and graphic design, with performances on three different keyboard instruments situated in three rooms. Within each are clickable notes, essays, graphics, and videos on such topics as the work’s origins and how it gained its title, the work as a dance and as a love story, and the intricacies of its counterpoint. In two rooms, Bach’s monogram serves a compass that, when clicked, points to each movement’s characteristics and detailed synopsis. After entering the site, users can choose a room and follow the score with performance on harpsichord by Halls, the founding director of the London-based Retrospect Ensemble; on piano by David Korevaar, a concert pianist on faculty at University of Colorado at Boulder; or on synthesizer by Jeffrey Hall, an astronomer and avocational organist. The manuscript score, contributed to the project by musicologist Yo Tomita of Queen’s University, Belfast, is a photo facsimile of a 1741 first-edition copy that was once owned by Bach’s first biographer, Johann Nicolaus Forkel. [caption id="attachment_8131" align="alignleft" width="138" caption="Tim Smith"][/caption] “I’m indebted to all the contributors,” said Smith. “It was such a privilege to work with such beautiful performances by Matthew, David, and Jeffrey. Still, there is much to learn,” he said. “One could no doubt pick a page at random and write another entire study of the Goldberg’s magnificent counterpoint.” The Goldberg component is the second of Bach masterworks explored on the Digital Bach site. The site was initiated in June 2011 with the B Minor Mass, containing Smith’s score animation, a four-part video of Helmuth Rilling’s lecture concerts (filmed in high definition in the UO’s Beall Concert Hall during the 2010 OBF), and a video look at Rilling’s OBF master class. Rilling’s four St. Matthew Passion lecture-concerts July 2-12 during the upcoming OBF will be taped for inclusion on the next iteration of the Digital Bach site in 2013. The Hinkle Charitable Foundation provides principle funding for the site. Its chairman, Hal Hinkle, is an alumnus of the OBF conducting master class. Other Digital Bach Project partners include the Oregon Bach Festival, the University of Oregon, Northern Arizona University, and Hanssler Classic records. >> More: artist biographies