Sarah Grunstein Performs The Goldberg Variations

Sarah Grunstein

Australian pianist Sarah Grunstein will tour Australia in 2016, performing J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations at the  Sydney Opera House on Tuesday 25 October. Passionate about engaging with audiences, her concerts will include her introductory talk with her audiences about the Goldberg Variations.

Sarah Grunstein’s performances have earned her an international reputation and she has been praised by the New York Times for her “penetrating musical intelligence”, her performance “tempestuous” and “imbued with a luminous calm.” She has performed in the United States, Europe, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia.

Bach’s Goldberg Variations is one of the most challenging works in the keyboard literature with its demands of musicianship, keyboard technique and stamina. Composed for a two-manual harpsichord, the work demands more of the pianist than even the harpsichordist. The pianist must negotiate the various “hand-crossings” (sometimes one hand directly on top of the other), a physical intricacy and contrapuntal overlapping of which the harpsichordist who would be playing on two manuals, is spared.

Sarah Grunstein was the pianist who, as a young teenager, performed the soundtrack for Bruce Beresford’s early Australian film, The Getting of Wisdom. Soon after, Sarah Grunstein moved to New York, graduating from The Juilliard School, where she was later appointed as a Teaching Fellow, and earned her doctorate at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. A longtime Steinway Artist, her career has included concerts at London’s Southbank Centre, New York’s Weill Recital Hall and at Carnegie Hall.

Miss Grunstein is passionate about performing Bach. From her early studies with Australian pedagogue Nancy Salas, she learned about 18th-century styles, character, dance, emotion, and improvisatory performance. This was at a time when most people were still performing Bach in a very “rigid” way. She remarks, “People ask me how I do what I do. I’ve studied and played a lot of Bach, and have read much about 18th and 19th century style – not only musical style, but compositional style, improvisation, improvisatory performance (slightly different from improvisation), and the language of various arts genres including dance, visual arts, and literature. Even though I am playing music that was composed for the harpsichord, I treat the piano as a piano and let my ‘pianist-voice’ speak. Keeping in my mind and heart Bach’s compositional language and what I believe was his creative intent, I go to town with it.”

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