Bach: Goldberg Variations

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: L’OISEAU-LYRE
WORKS: Goldberg Variations
PERFORMER: Christophe Rousset (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 444 866-2 DDD
The Goldberg Variations should feel like nothing less than a life-cycle. To cut all the repeats in the variations, as Julia Cload does, stunts the music’s growth, for each piece needs time to establish its character. It’s lost, anyway, in Cload’s too consistently sensitive approach: if only she could forget her good manners as a pianist, which dictate rhythmic elasticity and constant fluctuations of volume, the magic might get a chance to speak for itself.

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Christophe Rousset is much more forthright and offers a real experience, with all repeats and a lot of character, even though he keeps rhythm on a fairly tight rein. He plays a French harpsichord by Henri Hemsch, dated 1751, and makes a few subtle changes of registration (only between variations) which it would have been good to know about – the notes say nothing. Rousset makes an ugly percussive buzz in Variation 4 and the trills are naggingly slow in Variation 28, but such misgivings occur rarely in a performance with a strong sense of authority. Adrian Jack