WORKS: Goldberg Variations
PERFORMER: Blandine Verlet (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: E 8745 DDD
Glenn Gould apart, one would be hard pushed to find a complete set of the French Suites played on the piano, rather than the harpsichord. This is strange, since their inherent expressiveness means they transfer very successfully to the piano, and they may well have been designed for the clavichord – an instrument which, like the piano (but unlike the harpsichord), allows for dynamic shading.
By Bach’s time, the individual movements of the suite had become stylised and had lost sight of their original dance function. That said, Schiff’s rhythmic crispness and buoyancy make one want to leap up and dance. This is technically superb playing, with Schiff’s love and understanding of these exquisite works unmistakable throughout. The Italian Concerto and the French Overture (itself another, very substantial, suite) are also included, making these discs irresistible.
When it comes to the Goldberg Variations one is spoilt for choice, with over 30 recordings available. Blandine Verlet has admirable technical control, and she responds sensitively to the more intimate variations.
Occasionally I found her attention to detail mannered,and the musical flow is sometimes interrupted by some awkward phrasing. There is, too, insufficient contrast of tempoand character between individual variations – the result, perhaps, of an attempt to impose a sense of unity on the work as a whole.Kate Bolton