Internationally acclaimed Australian pianist Sarah Grunstein will be performing J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations next month at concerts in Sydney and Melbourne. These two concerts, which are a rare opportunity to hear one of Australia’s finest international pianists, will be held at the Melbourne Recital Center on Thursday 20 October and the Sydney Opera House, Utzon Room on Tuesday 25 October.
The Melbourne Recital Center concert is presented by the Australian Bach Society and the Australian Friends of the Tel Aviv University (Victoria) whilst the Sydney Opera House concert is presented by the Australian Bach Society.
Praised by the New York Times for her “penetrating musical intelligence”, her performance “tempestuous” and “imbued with a luminous calm“, Sarah has performed in the United States, Austria, Hungary, Italy, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and her homeland.
Many will remember Sarah Grunstein as the pianist who, as a young teenager, performed the soundtrack for Bruce Beresford’s early Australian film, “The Getting of Wisdom”. Soon after she moved to New York, graduating from The Juilliard School, where she was later appointed as a Teaching Fellow and earned her doctorate at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
Sarah is passionate about performing Bach. From her early studies with Australian pedagogue Nancy Salas, she learned about 18th century styles, character, dance, emotion, and improvisatory performance. This was at a time when most people were still performing Bach in a very “rigid” way. Sarah remarks, “People ask me how I do what I do. I’ve studied and played a lot of Bach and have read much about 18th and 19th century style, not only musical style, but compositional style, improvisation, improvisatory performance and the language of various arts genres including dance, visual arts, and literature. Even though I am playing music that was composed for the harpsichord, I treat the piano as a piano and let my ‘pianist-voice’ speak. Keeping in my mind and heart Bach’s compositional language and what I believe was his creative intent, I go to town with it.”
In its demands of musicianship, keyboard technique and stamina, Bach’s Goldberg Variations is perhaps one of the most challenging works in the keyboard literature. Composed for a two-manual harpsichord, the work demands more of the pianist than even the harpsichordist. The pianist must negotiate the various “hand-crossings” (sometimes one hand directly on top of the other), a physical intricacy and contrapuntal overlapping of which the harpsichordist who would be playing on two manuals, is spared.
Sarah’s career has been marked by her magnetic charisma, musical intelligence and sublime expressivity. Passionate about engaging with audiences, her concerts will include her introductory talk with audiences about the Goldberg Variations.
A longtime Steinway Artist, Sarah’s career has included concerts at New York’s Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and London’s Southbank Centre.