Sydney-born pianist Andrea Lam is acutely aware that the Goldberg Variationshave been mythologised.

She is about to embark on a national tour for Musica Viva where the first half of the concert features Lam performing JS Bach’s 1741 opus, with fellow pianist Paul Grabowksy playing a jazz-inflected improvisation in the second half, their different worlds talking to one another.

“It’s so personal for so many people in different ways,” Lam muses ahead of the concerts. “In the scope of the 30 variations, it takes you to so many places. It addresses so many things that are human and what goes beyond human: the wonder and the awe; for me, the sublime infused with the everyday.”

Pianist Andrea Lam. Photo © Keith Saunders.

This is the first time Lam and Grabowsky have shared a bill. The idea was hatched by Musica Viva’s Artistic Director Paul Kildea, who is “always looking for unusual ways to frame music and storytelling”, says Lam. But the Goldbergs can be “uniquely treacherous”, as United States pianist Jeremy Denk has noted, leading to “many impossible crossings” of the hands throughout...