Bach, Goldberg Variations
Johann Sebastian Bach

Bach, Goldberg Variations

Stepan Simonian

Label: CAvi
Format: CD
Barcode: 4260085531455
Catalog number: AVI 8553145
Releasedate: 14-06-19

- The born Russian Stepan Simonian (*1981) counts as one of the very high rated Bach interpreter

- For his first CD (GENUIN) he was reviewed:
„this release strikes me as one of the most exciting accounts of Bach’s toccatas on piano“
(Rob Haskins,American Record Guide)

- Bach’s Goldberg Variations are one of the most recorded works and certainly also one of Bach’s most famous works

Why Bach? Why Goldberg?

Johann Sebastian Bach was a true “essence” of music: a composer who brought literally everything together in his output, bridging all periods from Gregorian chant almost all the way to Viennese Classicism. In his seven early keyboard toccatas we encounter a young man gifted with genius, enriched by a multitude of musical influences, and still tempted to adapt to the musical developments of his day.

By the time he wrote the Goldberg Variations, everything was different: Bach had become a great master who, as his contemporaries saw it, wrote music that was somewhat outmoded (which, I assume, is the reason why he did not become as popular and well-known as, say, Telemann or Handel). Among colleagues, however, Bach’s output was regarded with the highest esteem. His trajectory as a composer followed its own evident, immanent logic. Starting with this variation cycle, he wrote a series of works we can – and should – now view as the musical legacy he intended to leave to posterity (a series of works that included The Musical Offering).

Musical cycles such as The Well-Tempered Clavier, The Musical Offering or The Art of Fugue constitute the ne plus ultra in terms of Bach’s mastery of instrumental polyphony. The Goldberg Variations, conversely, present a compendium of his skill in composing variations.

Since this variation cycle is written for a two-manual harpsichord, we can assume that Bach himself regarded it as an important milestone in his art as a performer on that instrument. Whether this supposition be true or not, there is no doubt that the Goldberg Variations represent one of the most outstanding works in the entire musical repertoire.

In my own experience, each experience with this piece is like returning to my parents’ home. The path is familiar. It leads me past places and images I know well, filled and surrounded by a multitude of reminiscences. Each time I go down the path again, new images, colors, reflections, interpretations and dialogues appear.

Each time I perform, hear or study these variations, I uncover new dimensions. They are brimming with the finest nuances, implications, and emotionally charged associations. The familiar path to that familiar home remains the same path, but the way I walk down it becomes thoroughly different every time.

As in every great work of art, the essence of the Goldberg Variations is so multifaceted, versatile, ineffable, and unspeakably sublime that the only way a musician can truly approach this extraordinary work is, fortunately, by performing it.

The “Aria” with different Veränderungen (changes or variations) is a journey that takes a lifetime. In my life, this recording is a personal part of the path I have chosen. If someone else would like to join me for a step of the way, I’ll be glad to welcome them. © 2018 Stepan Simonian


Critically acclaimed as “one of the great Bach interpreters of his generation”, Stepan Simonian is the recipient of the Silver Medal of the 2010 Leipzig International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition. Simonian is driven by a yearning to explore and illuminate the multiple facets of the great works of piano repertoire, particularly by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach. His passion for those works, his musical taste, his interpretations, and his teaching were shaped by his training within a well-cultured piano school tradition: at Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory under Pavel Nersessian, as well as with Oleg Boshniakovich, then with Evgeni Koroliov in Hamburg.


Born in 1981, Simonian won First Prize at the 2005 Virginia Waring International Piano Competition, and Third Prize at the 2008 Jose Iturbi International Piano Competition, both in the US. In recognition of his achievements in chamber music, he was awarded the prestigious Berenberg Cultural Prize in Hamburg in 2009. In 2014 he won Third Prize at the Aram Khachaturian International Piano Competition in Yerevan, Armenia.


Stepan Simonian performs as a guest artist at some of the most important festivals and concert venues throughout Europe and the US, including Bachfest Leipzig, the international piano festivals “La Roque d'Anthéron” and “Piano aux Jacobins” in France, the Mosel Music Festival, the ProArte concert series in Hamburg, and Pro Musica in Hannover, He has likewise performed at Carnegie Hall, at Duke’s Hall of the London Royal Academy, at the Palau de la Musica in Valencia, at the Alte Oper Frankfurt/Main, and at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg.


As a soloist he appeared with the Bach Kollegium Stuttgart under Helmuth Rilling, the Kirov Ballet Orchestra, Hamburg Symphony Orchestra under David Porcelijn, Sinfonia Varsovia with Arie van Beek, I Pomeriggi Musicali Milan, the Rheinische Philharmonie State Orchestra under Daniel Raiskin, and Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra Leipzig.


Stepan’s performances have been broadcast on major classical stations including ARD, MDR Leipzig, NDR Hamburg, SWR Stuttgart, HR Frankfurt, BR Munich, Deutschlandradio Kultur, and Radio France.


His début CD, a complete recording of J. S. Bach’s Toccatas for keyboard (GENUIN), was highly praised by music critics:


This release strikes me as one of the most exciting accounts of Bach’s toccatas on piano.” 

Rob Haskins, American Record Guide


A brilliant debut, proving Stepan Simonian to be one of the great Bach interpreters of his generation.”

Andreas Grabner, BR Klassik 

Simonian’s recording of Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto and Concert Rhapsody with the Rheinische Philharmonie State Orchestra conducted by Daniel Raiskin was released on the cpo label in 2018 to widespread critical acclaim.