Bach Goldberg Variations
Nick van Bloss was born in London and began piano lessons at the age of 11. His musical training began as a chorister at Westminster Abbey and he entered the Royal College of Music at the age of 15 as a Junior, attending full time from the age of 17, studying with Yonty Solomon and winning prizes for his playing. Further studies were with Benjamin Kaplan.
In 1994, aged 26, Nick van Bloss played a televised recital in Poland at the Chopin Festival. This proved to be his last public appearance before he retired from playing completely for 15 years. During these years van Bloss rarely touched a piano, but he did write his autobiographical memoir ‘Busy Body’, which was published, to much acclaim, in 2006. The following year he was the subject of a BBC ‘Horizon’ documentary exploring his creativity. This documentary led to interest in his piano playing and, in 2008, he began a series of recordings with award-winning producer Michael Haas, including a recording of Bach’s Keyboard Concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra.
This recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations marks van Bloss’s first venture back into professional life since his retirement. Of his playing, Michael Haas says that “in polyphonic music, such as Bach, Nick offers a superhuman degree of precision and individuality with each voice, while never losing overall transparency,” and who feels that van Bloss’s Chopin and Rachmaninov are characterised by a “crystalline solidity” which enables him to build and shape works with total security and “achieve a near-perfect balance between vibrancy of keyboard playing and sweep of musical vision.”
In April 2009, van Bloss made a ‘comeback’ concert at London’s Cadogan Hall, playing a concerto by Bach and Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ Concerto with the English Chamber Orchestra. Hilary Finch of The Times wrote -
“Van Bloss’s concentration was total, as if great reserves of inner strength were being loaded, only to be released, first in a long, crystalline trill, and then in the striding rhythms which it charged. Each note had ringing resonance; each phrase an instinctive flexibility - and this made heart-felt song of the wonderfully exploratory slow movement. The exuberance of the hard-won finale was palpable - and the hall rose to its feet.
His recording of Bach Concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra will be released in May 2011.
“Fresh, but cogent and entirely unselfconscious... Sublime poetry, playfulness and, above all, a relish of what the modern piano can bring to this music in terms of dynamics, colour and articulation.” Stephen Pettitt, The Sunday Times
“...precision is paramount, and Van Bloss employs it here to mesmerising effect...” Andy Gill, The Independent
“The fluidity of line, the unforced lyricism – not always thought an allowable word with Bach, but just listen to this – and the clarity of structure and counterpoint make you sit up.” Fiona Maddocks, The Observer
“Beautifully recorded, this is rather a special Goldberg Variations. I know the market is somewhat awash with choice in this field at the moment, but in this case my spirits perked up as soon as the piece started. Nick van Bloss’s performance is like greeting an old friend…should be a very, very serious consideration indeed for any fan of the Goldberg Variations.” Dominy Clements musicweb-international.com
“The fast variations are a joy, bringing the intricate part work to life without that over-finicky precision that sometimes mars this piece. Bloss’s occasional beefing-up of the bass line will annoy some, but I found its joie de vivre irresistible.” Ivan Hewet, The Telegraph
"The English pianist Nick van Bloss has an elegant style of playing. His touch, to the ends of the fingers, is particularly flexible and his 'pearle' is measured down to the millimetre. This horizontal reading is coloured with charming little effects, like the 'plucked' bass notes, which are an unexpected antidote to the likes of Gould. This performance plays freely with the variation of tempo and is a beautiful discovery." Le Pianiste
JS Back Keyboard Concertos was selected as "Album of the Week " by the UK Independent
Nick van Bloss, Institut Francais, It’s All About The Piano! Festival
5 star review
A festival called It’s All About The Piano! took place last week at the Institut Francais, where the highlight was another performance of the Goldberg Variations, the first in Britain by Nick van Bloss since his widely acclaimed recording of the work. It didn’t disappoint.
Van Bloss’s take on these variations was fantastically idiosyncratic. It followed no rule book. In fact, to an extent it took the rule book apart with its spread chords, doubled octaves and ritardandos galore. It was the sort of performance that might have given John Eliot Gardiner a heart attack once upon a time. But this wasn’t piano playing. This was cinema: vivid, arresting, ferociously modern, each variation jump cutting into the next.
There was a bit of Gould in the articulation, in the caprice and steely attack. The minor key narratives were drained of sentimentality and offered up cold and savage. Fingers became careering hit squads, dissonant harmonies explosives to further disrupt and disturb. This was the Goldbergs as you’ll never have heard them: as a Tarantino-like display of violent energy and virtuosic choreography. Igor Toronyi-Lalicth, theartdesk.com, 2nd April 2013