Bach: Italian Concerto; Goldberg Variations

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Italian Concerto; Goldberg Variations
PERFORMER: Peter Serkin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68188 2
It is a joy to have access to these two performances of the Goldberg Variations. Choosing between the American interpreters is not an easy task. Edward Aldwell is not a name familiar to many in Britain, but the fact that historical specialists Biddulph have chosen to record a new disc with him should alert us to the fact that here is something of rare quality. At times, Aldwell’s interpretation feels like one long meditation: his tempi are somewhat slower than most, he observes every repeat and no note is touched with less than total care. His tone is exquisite and every contrapuntal line emerges in sharp focus, crystal clear. The only complaint is that now and then he overemphasises the first beat of the bar, which holds to earth an otherwise celestial performance.

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Peter Serkin takes a brisker approach – his Goldbergs run to just 44:30 mins against Aldwell’s 77:11 mins. The key to this is that he doesn’t do all the repeats; but here is a performance of vigour, virtuoso flair (an aspect of the Goldbergs too often played down!) and romanticism which never sacrifices clarity of sound or line. The Italian Concerto, likewise, is played with liveliness, tenderness and clarity. Sound quality, as on the Biddulph, is good.

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My advice to Goldberg buffs would be to get both, although Aldwell has the edge, thanks to his profound, still spirituality. Jessica Duchen