Lars Vogt Plays Bach’s Goldberg Variations
JS Bach's Goldberg Variations played by Lars Vogt.
COMPOSERS: JS Bach
ALBUM TITLE: Bach
WORKS: Goldberg Variations
PERFORMER: Lars Vogt
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 1273-2
If the Goldbergs are a set of variations for all seasons, Lars Vogt’s new recording has more than a touch of spring about it. Vogt talks about ‘de-sanctifying’ the work, and argues that ‘we don’t have to navigate but are guided’. The Aria, he maintains, is ‘no squeezing out of meaning’, and so it proves to be, unfolded with a limpid, unfussy directness at a tempo that gives no quarter to over-expressive navel-gazing. And when it eventually returns, the effect is not so much ‘journey’s end’ as a reminder of where we started from.
Of course in a work of complex architecture lasting an hour and a quarter some sense of ‘navigation’ is necessary to ensure coherence. Vogt’s feel for the over-arching whole is impressive. He’s not above a little ‘guiding’ either – pianist that he is, sometimes drawing attention to detail in a way denied to Bach’s harpsichord. But he’s sparing in the use of pedal, and, like András Schiff and Murray Perahia, inclined to let his fingers sing wherever possible. To laugh, too. After the intricate ruminations of Variation 13 its successor erupts with impish glee, as does Variation 23 with right and left hands slugging it out in manic contrary motion. And the profound stillness of the ‘Black Pearl’ No. 25 is the more eloquent for its inner restraint. Vogt’s ornaments are not always as effortlessly incorporated into the dancing flow as Angela Hewitt’s, and Jeremy Denk interrogates the music more closely, but Vogt’s act of ‘de-sanctification’ has a freshness that unquestionably refreshes. Paul Riley