Irma Issakadze, was born in 1976 in Tiflis, Georgia,
into a family of significant musicians. She debuted at
the age of nine with Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.
1 in a concert with the Georgian State Orchestra. At
fourteen, she entered the class of Ludwig Hoffmann
at the Academy of Theater and Music in Munich. She
obtained her degree in concert piano with Vladimir
Krainev at the Academy of Music in Hanover.
Irma Issakadze has concertized in Spain, Italy,
Germany, Georgia, France, Switzerland and the USA.
The NDR broadcast one of her concerts with the
Radio Philharmonic Orchestra Hanover of the NDR
under Eiji Oue.
With her recording of the Goldberg Variations,
the young pianist demonstrates her compelling musical
personality with an interpretation that is based on
knowledge of the great achievements throughout the
history of the interpretation of this central work and which likewise finds its own way between the great
pianistic tradition and today’s historically informed
The CD, which was recorded, mixed and mastered
in “real” DSD, without converting from PCM format,
was made in the renowned mediaHYPERIUM
Studio in California, produced using the highest level
of recording technology available today.
Existence: The cycle of life
Irma Issakadze speaks with Marco Frei
about Johann Sebastian Bach’s
There are already a number of great interpretations
of Bach’s Goldberg Variations on
the market. How does this affect you as an
interpreter, Ms. Issakadze?
I follow my first inspiration when selecting
works to play. If I feel like I have a special
connection to a work, I already have many
of my own ideas about it. Even when I hear
other recordings of that piece, it doesn’t really
influence me very much. I already have my
own distinct image of it. It is interesting, of
course, to hear other aspects, but when someone
has their own approach, nothing can unsettle
that. They have enough inner power to
follow their own way.
Glenn Gould made great recordings of the
Naturally, Gould’s performances inspired
me. He is a pianist whom I admire greatly.
His interpretations influenced and helped
shape my own playing, but I finally moved
away from him, metaphorically speaking,
and no longer listened to his recordings as
much. I have chosen a completely different
line of interpretation.
What do you think is the reason for this?
I think it has to do with personality! He was a
completely different person. His background
has very little to do with me – which of
course plays a role. When one compares our
interpretations, mine has become something
completely different – I find.
I agree very much. What stands out to me
is your rather free agogic within individual
I would describe my manner of playing as a
type of improvisation, which explains the
varying tempi you mention. Bach’s Goldberg
Variations are like an organism to me. Their
breathing changes – just like we humans react
in various manners and fashions as well. I like
to follow this breathing character – to follow
the inner flow. This agogic freedom develops
when a specific passage draws me in.
What is your approach to the Goldberg
I have a very intimate relationship with this
work. One expression that occurs to me is
that it is my “soulmate”. Like a person to
whom you are very close. That’s how I feel
about the Goldberg Variations. I have studied
them intensively for over ten years – when
I started, I was eighteen. For me, they are
a constant and inexhaustible source of new
perspectives and ideas.
And those would be?
The Goldberg Variations remind me of the
“principium grande” of the early Enlightenment
philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz:
“Nothing is without reason”. The work’s
immense impact comes from this. At the
beginning, we have simple, self-evident clarity,
and then something develops that makes
us begin to reflect, that captures us and that
also stirs us up emotionally. There isn’t any
emotion that isn’t in that work – joy, euphoria,
sadness, pain, power or austerity. But it
always has its own sense of inner quiet, it imparts
How does this express itself?
It develops a feeling of infinity – as though
everything is timeless. In my opinion, the
variations do not strive to reach a goal, which
also has to do with the form of the circle.
You’re referring to how the beginning Aria
returns at the end of work?
Exactly. A circle, a cycle – also one of life.
That is decisive, both in nature and in our
lives – the circle plays a very big role. Seen in
this light, the journey of the Aria to the Aria
also symbolizes our life. But it is not really a
return, because the point to which we return
now has another significance than it did at
the beginning. The listener or performer has
changed, and the path one has taken shapes
him or her. For me, all of this practically
symbolizes existence itself.
That is an entirely religious view, isn’t it?
I am a very religious person, and of course, it
is nothing new that Bach’s music is religious
– his religiosity is ever-present. I explain this
in any event with the special presence of religion
and God. As a devout person, one could
turn Leibniz’s statement “Nothing is without
reason” around to “Nothing is without God”.
My opinion is that this cycle and basic theme
are at the bottom of many masterpieces – not
only in music, but in other arts as well.
Since when have you been so interested in
I began playing Bach when I was six or seven.
I started with the Well-Tempered Clavier. At
that time, my father took the music away
from me because he thought it was still too
early for that (laughs). But when I was thirteen
or fourteen, after we moved from Georgia
to Germany, I again took up my work
with Bach with great intensity.
Why particularly then?
That was the time I was freeing myself from
many influences, artistic ones as well. I come
from a well known family of Georgian musicians.
Our move to Germany was a big help to
me. The family was simply busy with day-today
things – the move was a major change, as
you can imagine. I studied independently for
the first time when I came to Germany; before
that, my parents had often taught me.
Was it difficult for you, coming from such a
prominent family of musicians?
It can be difficult. To assert oneself, one must
have a strong, individual artistic personality.
In Germany, I could stand on my own two
feet, alone – in the good sense of the word
– which was very good for me. I then came
to Ludwig Hoffmann, who explained a lot
about Bach’s style to me. Later, I refused to
let my family affect me too much. Of course,
the influence of my family was positive and
very important, but breaking free of that is
extremely important – one must find one’s
own way. And I believe that I have succeeded
in this – above all through the help of my
work with Bach.
Translation: Elizabeth Gahbler