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JS Bach: Goldberg Variations (Rondeau)

Jean Rondeau (harpsichord) (Erato)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

JS Bach
Goldberg Variations, BWV 988
Jean Rondeau (harpsichord)
Erato 9029650811   107:12 mins (2 discs)


Jean Rondeau, a prominent figure of the nouvelle vague of harpsichordists, adopts a spacious approach to Bach’s inspired and masterly Variations. Not for him is Gustav Leonhardt’s almost invariable disdain for repeats, for all are scrupulously observed in this two-disc album. Rondeau’s responses to the music are, by-and-large, reflective and notably free from superficial showiness. For the most part his tempos feel carefully considered and are well judged, and his articulation all that we should expect from an eloquently punctuated and inflected conversation. Intimacy, clarity and faithfulness to Bach’s music, as Rondeau understands it, are self-declared aims, laid out in the accompanying booklet, in which two consecutive, almost entirely blank pages each contain one word, silence and stille. Make of that what you will; readers of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy will know what I mean.

There is a marked rhetorical slant to Rondeau’s overview of the Goldbergs. His presentation of the Aria is full of consequence, and his narration of what follows is effective. The profound 25th Variation is commendably limpid and rhythmically supple, further benefitting from the beautifully recorded sound of the harpsichord, built in 2006 after German models. The merits of this instrument are on display throughout, as in the bell-like resonances in the upper register of Variations 14 and 26. Occasionally I sensed over-weightiness, as in Variation 24, and in an absurdly ponderous and humourless Quodlibet (Variation 30), but exhilarating moments are to be found in the robust giga of Variation 7, the joyful Variations 28 and 29 and the lightly ornamented Aria da capo.

Nicholas Anderson

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