This article first appeared in Limelight’sJuly 2018 magazineand is available free-to-read for the month of August. Click hereto buy a copy.

B ernard Labadie is unfailingly polite, his words measured and precise. He doesn’t speak romantically about his string arrangement of that monument of classical music, Bach’s Goldberg Variations. He instead repeatedly refers to it as “just a proposition”, like a very modest, low-key scientist. He doesn’t even criticise the 1985 Sitkovetsky string trio arrangement with any real heat – he simply says he finds it not particularly attuned to the style of the 18th century, and that it’s “totally fine” if some people like it. We’re speaking today because the Australian Chamber Orchestra is soon to give his much-admired arrangement of the Goldberg Variationsits Australian premiere, and it’s clear that it’s been a little while since Labadie has had the chance to speak about it, pleased to recall memories now more than 20 years old.

Bernard Labadie. Photo © Dario Acosta 

Published in 1741, the Goldberg Variationsoccupy a giant patch of real estate in classical music, with many listeners finding their way...