Friday, January 23, 2009

Goldberg on Guitar (radio show)

Musica della sera for January 22, 2009

The latest show is now up on the Internet to listen to on demand; see below for locating the link.

The main work on the program is Kurt Rodarmer's guitar transcription and performance of J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations. His approach to the work is remarkable and interesting, which he describes extensively in the liner notes. A few highlights:

Glenn Gould's second and last release of the Goldberg Variations on piano was for me a landmark event. He attempted to connect each of the variations on the basis of rhythmic relationships rather than considering each as simply a variation upon the theme. The work is based upon the opening Aria, which originally appeared in the Klavierbüchen of Anna Magdalena Bach from 1725 as a Sarabande... The thirty variations which follow are based loosely upon the bass or harmonic progression rather than on any melodic theme.

When I first evaluated the possibility of transcribing the work, it became clear to me that conventional methods would not work well. My goal was to produce a musical offering as valid on guitar as it was on keyboard, not altering the composition to accommodate the instrument. Additionally, my arrangement would have to maintain the homogeneous nature of solo performance.

I have recorded the complete Goldberg Variations on two to four guitars, recording each part separately and later mixing them down. The recording is roughly 75 minutes in length, direct to digital with custom strings and instruments made just for the Goldberg.

Against my better judgment, I began to look for ways around the guitar's natural limitations. I considered commissioning a guitar with a broader range, but the interval distances ere still too great to play with only one hand. It was clear that I needed not only another octave, but also another hand.

You can see exactly what was played and who performed it by referring to the playlist (originally broadcast 1/22/2009).

Custom-made guitars commissioned for the performance of the Goldberg transcriptions. Rodarmer writes, "I approached the renowned American guitar maker Richard Schneider, who was intrigued with the project. The goals were demanding. I needed a guitar with a bass register extending down into the ranges of cello and double bass. The musical quality had to be consistently excellent throughout the extended range."

My wife, Meera Collier-Mitchell, and I take turns hosting the classical radio program Musica della sera on Thursday evenings, 7-9:30 (PT). This week I hosted.

KUSP Radio is now offering On Demand downloads of its music programs. Peruse the calendar listing, with audio links, of The Shows Available. Click the one for Musica della sera Thursday night to hear our show.

Each broadcast is available for download until it is replaced by the subsequent week's program.

You can also stream KUSP live of course.

Guitarist and Arranger Kurt Rodarmer




I just discovered Kurt Rodarmer very recently and I am amazed at his work. I could not find your show with him for download. Could you point me to a link for download or email me the mp3 of the show? Thanks!


Puzzled said...


I'm afraid that because of licensing restraints, music shows on KUSP are available for streaming only for the week following the original broadcast.

I recommend you pick up a copy of Rodarmer's excellent recording of the Goldberg Variations. It's on the Sony label.