WORKS: Goldberg Variations; Italian Concerto; Fantasia in C minor, BWV 906; Fantasia & Fugue in A minor, BWV 904
PERFORMER: Ralph Kirkpatrick (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 439 465-2 ADD (1959-61)
The story that Bach composed the Goldberg Variations to help Count Keyserlingk overcome insomnia makes sense only if his intention was to keep the Count entertained all night. There’s nothing soporific about the way Bach embroiders his canonic cycle with a brilliant array of variety and invention.
Ralph Kirkpatrick, one of the first American harpsichord virtuosos, displays a fine feeling for the slower variations, though I prefer a fleeter touch in the fast, dance-like pieces. Further reservations are that he omits repeats and that, on all the works here (recorded between 1959 and 1961), his harpsichord sounds heavy-toned and clangorous. Graham Lock