Live reviews from Musica Viva national tour:
Pianist Andrea Lam & jazz pianist Paul Grabowsky AO: J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and variations on the Aria
Through the month of June, Musica Viva performed a fascinating musical experiment: bringing two soloists of outstanding calibre – one from classical music, one from jazz – into the one program. Performing the hallowed masterwork that is Bach’s Goldberg Variations, recorded and performed by iconic pianists the world over, Andrea Lam carried the torch for this epic work in a national tour for Musica Viva, alongside Australian jazz legend, Paul Grabowsky, who used the theme from the opening Aria as a springboard to break into new sounds.
Here is just some of the critical acclaim from Andrea’s performances at City Recital Hall, Sydney; Melbourne Recital Centre; Perth Concert Hall; Adelaide Town Hall; Queensland Conservatorium, Brisbane; Newcastle City Hall; Four Winds, Barragga Bay (NSW), recorded by ABC Classic FM (listen again here) and livestreamed on Australian Digital Concert Hall.
Review by David Cusworth, The West Australian (14/06/22):
“with quicksilver touch she negotiates every corner. Sudden flights of fancy in the treble as bass dances break into downhill runs, clockwork in precision and pace, calming again to a meandering melody with contrasting bass… Lam’s crystalline clarity opens a window on the soul of a master, transfixing the hall with transcendence and wonder.
A pin-drop pause holds sway before “Brava!”; a lone voice bursts the dam of admiration and praise.
How to follow that? … Lam summoned the art to speak for itself.”
Review by Clive O’Connell (12/6/22):
“Lam gave us a deft interpretation that took advantage of the piano’s powers to sustain and to offer toccata-like brilliance… a full-blooded demonstration of hefty two-part counterpoint…
You couldn’t ask for a more lucid and fair reading, each line individual and perceptible throughout… a masterclass in accelerating excitement and energy with sparkling finger-work in the right-hand demi-semiquavers and an exhilarating interplay.”
Review by Tony Way, The Age, 4 stars (24/06/22):
“Lam brought the full romantic resources of the piano to bear on her Herculean task… No brittle percussiveness for her. Weaving the thread of the aria’s melody through its harmonic framework, she imparted a soft, ruminative quality, going on to give a richly coloured interpretation that celebrated Bach’s astonishing creativity.”
Review by Dr Diana Carroll, ArtsHub, 4-stars (21/06/22):
“Lam showed herself to be a fine pianist, playing with extraordinary clarity and leaving just enough air between the variations for the audience to catch its collective breath…
As the aria came to its final close she paused for just a moment’s reflection at the keyboard before standing to receive her richly deserved applause… [and] rhapsodic reception from the audience.”
Review of Lam’s artistry by Paul Ballam-Cross, Limelight, 4-stars (14/6/22):
“… her control of the variety of moods across the variations was impressive, with a clear eye towards highlighting Bach’s theme for the audience. There were more than a few “a-ha!” moments as a canon wound its way into a glimpse of the original piece, or a scattering of arpeggios flashed into a familiar progression.”
Review by Kym Clayton, The Barefoot Review (15/06/22):
“Lam’s performance is truly heartfelt… the sound remains precise… The dynamic shifts are exhilarating. The individual voices in the canons and fugues are crystal clear”
Review by Emily Sutherland, 5MBS (16/6/22):
“The opening Aria… came to life, delicately, with crystal clarity. That clarity remained, together with accuracy and subtlety, a sense of drama which the pianist [Lam] delivered through the changes of mood and tempi. … Joy, melancholy, playfulness, fast and spirited at times and touchingly gentle at others. A thoroughly satisfying performance.”
Review by Steve Moffatt, The Daily Telegraph (20/06/22):
“The Aria was taken at a thoughtful pace, beautifully articulated and with a lucidity that set the seal on the diverse variations to come… she displayed a prodigious technique and balance during the challenging moments – crossed hand playing, tricky canons and fearful fugues included”
Review by Paul Nolam, Sydney Arts Guide (24/06/22):
“Andrea Lam supplied a comprehensive rendering of the challenge of shifting the Goldbergs from double manual harpsichord to piano. Her athletic arrangement of hand crossovers and part playing was a joy to watch…. Lam’s expression during performance… either during lyrical or fiendishly busy moments reached us from the subtle excellence of her modern piano performance with tasteful, even touch and pleasing treatment of the various textures…
As well as this dexterity, the restraint and control… offered a tasteful lyricism and beauty of piano tone. This made the set feel like it was always intended for rejoicing on the piano…
This was a huge play from memory, with contrasts of character and swift movement between variations adding to the quality of storytelling and momentum.”