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Meniker plays Bach with passion,fire

Despite audience distractions, harpsichordist sparkles

by Luciano Silvestri

Harpsichordist Zvi Meniker brought Bach to life at Sunday afternoon's guest recital. His playing touched a nerve in many listeners that afternoon and almost brought some to tears. Despite his stirring performance, some members of the audience gave Meniker little respect as he undertook the Goldberg Variations, one of the most difficult pieces in the harpsichord repertoire.

The recital began with another of Bach's compositions: his prelude and Fugue in G Major from book two of The Well-Tempered Clavier. Energy drove this exciting piece. His attacks and releases could only be described as full of both fire and passion. Thunderous applause followed this piece, but it would not be the same enthusiastic response that Meniker would receive after the next, more difficult work.

Considered by many to be Bach's greatest contribution to harpsichord literature, the Goldberg Variations sparkled more vividly than could have ever been imagined. However, there were listeners in attendance who did not share these thoughts.

The dignity of the piece was often challenged by coughing and tension-relaxation exercises (e.g. head twitching, knuckle cracking, etc.). There were many who enterred Kulas Recital Hall who disregarded the performance in progress.

Admittedly, an hour and a half is a bit much for most listeners, and performers alike, to concentrate on one piece. That is why the Goldberg Variations are not performed very often and why it is such a treat when they are performed.

One concert-goer remarked that she did not like the Bach because it "just seemed odd." How awkward a statement from a musician of all people.

Casting those distractions aside, the recital was well attended by members of the College, Conservatory, and community of Oberlin. Meniker met with the audience members after the recital to discuss any aspects of his playing or playing the harpsichord in general. Clearly, this was a stellar performance of a very taxing work, and it is hoped that Meniker returns to Oberlin, minus the audience distractions, in the very near future.


Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 2; September 13, 1996

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