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Jean Rondeau, 'Aria'

Jean Rondeau, with his unkempt hairdo and scruffy beard, looks like he belongs in a Brooklyn indie-rock band. Instead, the 30-year-old French musician is one of the most sought–after harpsichordists working today. His latest musical adventure is a climb up the Mount Everest of keyboard works – J. S. Bach's Goldberg Variations. For this recording, Rondeau consulted an original edition of the music with Bach's own notations and has come to think of the work as a monument to silence. After all, legend has it that Bach intended his kaleidoscopic variations to be played by a harpsichordist named Goldberg, who used them to soothe a sleepless nobleman. Beginning with this delicate, opening "Aria," Rondeau's tempos are spacious and filled with quietude. He plays all of the repeat sections Bach intended, expanding the work to over 100 luminous minutes.

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Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.