Bach: Goldberg Variations

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WORKS: Goldberg Variations
PERFORMER: Maria Tipo (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 5 73854 2 (available only from HMV stores) Reissue (1986)
Pianists, long ago, took Bach’s Goldberg Variations to heart. Yet, unlike the Preludes and Fugues which make up the ‘48’, Bach wrote the Goldbergs specifically for a two-manual harpsichord stipulating, for reasons of contrapuntal clarity, the use of both keyboards in 11 of the variations. Such obstacles can easily be overcome by pianists. But they, nonetheless, are often inclined, by embracing the largely Romantic concept of personal communication, to disguise the music’s truthful identity. For these and other reasons, neither Maria Tipo nor Daniel Barenboim offers performances which seem to me either to liberate the spirit or to reach the heart of Bach’s music. Tipo, unlike Angela Hewitt in her recent, altogether more lyrical recording, inclines towards over- (and in some instances, misplaced) emphasis, stabbing at notes with startling aggression. Barenboim’s playing is more thoughtful, though his all-pervading legato enervates phrase inflections; but he is too serious for me, missing the fun which Glenn Gould finds in the music. The Beethoven Diabelli Variations on the same release are altogether more convincing. Nicholas Anderson