Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988; Clavierbuchlein far Anna Magdalena Bach (excerpts)

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988; Clavierbuchlein far Anna Magdalena Bach (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Andrei Vieru (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901666
RosalynTureck’s vision of the Goldberg Variations has been honed over six decades of performing it. As befits a monument to a notable career, it is a long and serious business. She includes virtually every repeat. She is slow and purposeful. Every note is played as if the culmination of a lifetime’s consideration. Such an approach clearly risks being stultifying, but in fact produces a compelling recording. Tureck’s attention to detail and ability to communicate in music years of thought on Bach are impressive. Occasional lapses into the methods of a schoolteacher, especially in the canonic variations where she can’t risk us missing one of Bach’s tricks, become almost understandable.

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Inevitably, Andrei Vieru displays a lighter touch. Despite his curious comments in the booklet notes about Bach plagiarising Mozart and Beethoven, his GoUbergis no-nonsense, forthright, sensitive and always appealingly phrased — although not without caprices such as the sudden halving of tempo in the final variation. He slips up only in a meandering Variation 25, where the shape of the piece becomes murky, and an uneven – possibly too fast – Variation 26.

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One is sent back to Glenn Gould’s wonderful 1955 record. When he revisited the work in 1982 the result sounded rather like Tureck; but in the earlier recording he played with a spontaneity, speed and sheer excitement that were bound to make Tureck seem a little dour and Vieru a shade clumsy. Christopher Wood