by Jarrett Hoffman
J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations have a history of fascinating interpretations, no doubt including that of jazz pianist and composer Dan Tepfer. His 2011 album Goldberg Variations / Variations sees him both performing the work and improvising upon it, responding to each variation along the way in a separate track.
That disc brought Tepfer global acclaim, and the project remains one of his most requested from presenters worldwide. So it should come as no surprise that it’s the main feature of his free, virtual concert on the Tri-C Classical Piano Series this Sunday, April 18 at 2:00 pm. (Click here at start time.) In addition to excerpts from the Bach, and of course the corresponding improvisations, the program also includes three of his original compositions.
I reached the New York City-based musician by email, and we began by discussing a blog post of his that delves into his journey with the Goldberg Variations.
Jarrett Hoffman: You write about how, in order for your improvisations to stand up next to the variations, they needed to be “concise and focused; they needed to get to the point, all while remaining personal.” Is it difficult to balance spontaneity with getting to the point?
Dan Tepfer: Yes, this is one of the most interesting challenges of this project. To remain authentically spontaneous and let things go where they want to go in the moment, all while staying conscious of the overall frame so that we don’t get lost in the weeds.