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Lisa Goode Crawford Discusses The Goldberg Variations

Performance Slated for Tuesday, February 8, 8 P.M., in Kulas Recital Hall

Story by Linda Shockley

Lisa Goode Crawford, professor of harpsichord, began to learn Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations in 1965 while studying on a Fulbright grant with Gustav Leonhardt. Since that time, she's made new discoveries and found new challenges in the piece each and every time she has practiced and performed it.

"I feel about this piece the way a lot of cellists feel about Bach's cello suites," Crawford explains. "It's a lifetime project and it's worthy of being a lifetime project. This is music I never tire of. It's music that I think one could practice every day for an entire musical life. It's always interesting and it always teaches me something."

When asked about the preparation required for performing this marathon on harpsichord, Crawford says, "It is an ongoing project. Preparation really becomes a matter of completely internalizing the piece and owning it. This happens gradually over the years. I've performed the Variations twice: once in the '70s and once in '80s. But looking back, I think of how much better I understand them now. And each time you perform the piece, you learn more."

Crawford offered an informal performance of the Variations during last summer's Baroque Performance Institute and she plans to perform them during her sabbatical next year.

She recorded the piece in Finney Memorial Chapel at the beginning of Winter Term and is now searching for a publisher. "I've been getting the piece ready to record for the last five years and this just seemed like the time to record.."

A happy coincidence with that recording session was the completion of a new harpsichord built for her by Earl Russell. The instrument is a copy of a 1624 Ionneas Ruckers harspichord that belongs to the Musée d'Unterlinden in Colmar, France. Her Oberlin performance will also showcase her new harpsichord.

"The Goldberg Variations is, for me, one of the most inspiring pieces of music. It's like chamber music under the fingers. I think the challenge is to perform the piece as if a number of people were playing together, reacting to one another. That way it is always growing; it can never be static."

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