Beethoven Festival: Dan Tepfer, Fine Arts Quartet, George Lepauw & Friends, New Millennium Orchestra | National Pastime Theater | Fairs & Festivals | Chicago Reader
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Beethoven Festival: Dan Tepfer, Fine Arts Quartet, George Lepauw & Friends, New Millennium Orchestra Agenda All Ages Recommended Soundboard

When: Mon., Sept. 10, 3 p.m. 2012
Phone: 773-327-7077
Price: $15-$60
Last year thoughtful New York jazz pianist Dan Tepfer—an occasional collaborator of veteran alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, with whom he shares an erudite approach to the genre and a serious faith in the riches to be mined from familiar forms—released a stunning take on Bach's iconic Goldberg Variations. Written as keyboard exercises in the 18th century, the variations have become one of the most readily identifiable works in the classical canon—in part due to the famous (and hugely divergent) versions recorded by the great Glenn Gould in 1955 and '81, both of which bear the stamp of his musical personality. On Goldberg Variations/Variations (Sunnyside) Tepfer follows each of Bach's 30 variations with an ingenious and convincing improvised adaptation that builds on the source material (as well as on Gould's interpretations). As he writes in the liner notes, "What is amazing about Gould is his sense of time—it's insanely good. That's something jazz musicians think very hard about—what good time is, what groove is, what swing is. Gould is rhythmically one of the most precise and rooted players I've ever heard." Tepfer's improvisations import ideas from jazz, and as he solos on the chord sequences and melodic material of this centuries-old piece, he retains the basic feel and touch of the original—even though his versions are more oblique, fractured, and contemplative than most other radical modern versions of the variations, the great liberties he takes never obliterate Bach's handiwork. Of course, throughout jazz history a single set of chord changes has often formed the basis for countless new tunes, but Tepfer works with much more than just the changes, engaging Bach with a rigorous ear for detail. He responds to the most fleet and aggressive variations in kind, while the slower material allows him to use open space and beautiful phrasing. Tepfer will play the music for the first time in Chicago as part of this week's Beethoven Festival. —Peter Margasak Tepfer plays last, at 11 PM; the day begins with the Fine Arts Quartet, and from there the bill is, in order, the New Millennium Orchestra, George Lepauw and friends, and the Fine Arts Quartet again.


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