Bach celebrated in Perse music and art project

Marvellous music and amazing art were combined in a Perse celebration of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

Ninety talented Perse pianists took part in the Goldberg Project as they went on a musical journey of discovery through the German composer’s famous work.

They began learning the 30 variations which make up the composition during the Michaelmas term, working as soloists or duos, playing either on a single keyboard together or on two pianos.

A number of the musicians had the chance to take part in masterclasses with acclaimed pianists Joanna MacGregor CBE and Antoinette Cann.

Joanna put soloists through their paces prior to performing the Goldberg Variations in a special concert in the Peter Hall Performing Arts Centre, while Antoinette, who plays with sister Claire in The Cann Twins, worked with piano duos.

Thirty-five of the young pianists went on to perform Bach’s work in concert on the PAC stage with a beautifully animated backdrop featuring works by Year 7 pupils.

They had been tasked with creating paintings and drawings in response to listening to the Goldberg Variations, with their original pieces now on display in the Pelican Gallery.

Perse Head of Keyboard Peter Hewitt, who oversaw the Goldberg Project, said: “It’s quite nice to do a big project around a particular piece of music to give a strong focal point.

“The Goldberg Variations is an unusual piece for a school to do as it’s very difficult, but because we’ve got so many high standard pianists, we were able to do it and it was a good opportunity for them to get into Bach.

“The piano duos and piano duets had to practise together. They usually play by themselves, so it was excellent for them to try something new and some of them want to keep playing together, which is a great outcome.

“The masterclasses saw them get expert teaching from professionals in their field and both Joanna and Toni were really good with them. They would give advice and you could see the pupils improving as they went along.

“Having Joanna, who is an international pianist, play the piece herself in concert was the icing on the cake.”

Mr Hewitt was also delighted with the performances of those taking part in the pupil concert and the “brilliant” artworks featured alongside them.

The project will culminate with a film featuring recordings by all 90 pianists playing elements of the Goldberg Variations.


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