Johann Sebastian Bach's 'Goldberg Variations' have been an enduring classic and for good reason. The work is technically demanding, extraordinarily beautiful, and is some of the purest music to come form Bach's fertile mind. The work has long been a challenge to performers, yet despite that fact there are many recordings of the work played on both harpsichord and piano. Some of the giants who have made this ninety some minute work seem like a conversation with the heavens are, of course, Glenn Gould in his various recordings, Murray Peraiha, Alexis Weissenberg, Andras Schiff and Rosalyn Turek...and there are others.
Now there is a new contender for these ranks of great performances in this splendid recording by harpsichordist Richard Egarr. Egarr is a purist and has tuned his instrument in the half tone manner compatible with the method of tuning in Bach's day. He is an immaculate technician, negotiating all of the treacherous variations with utter ease but also finding the sublimely gentle melodies in others. True, with the Goldberg Variations as played on the harpsichord there is not the range of dynamics or even expressiveness that is available to the performer of this work on the much later developed piano or even pianoforte. Those who treasure Gould's definitive performances will miss the poetry, the pedaling, the swooning - and the audible accompanying singing from the keyboardist!
But set aside the piano version of this Bach masterpiece and allow Richard Egarr to transport you back to the time of the creation of the work. It is a mesmerizing experience. Egarr's 2 CD set includes the seldom heard 'Verschiedene Canones (14), for unspecified instruments or keyboard, BWV 1087' which, though a mere 8 minutes in length is yet another otherworldly exploration of Bach.
Many scholars will write prolifically about the response to the particular tuning aspects of the harpsichord used by Richard Egarr, and that will prove an interesting debate. But for the less scientifically audience this recording is a viable, no splendid!, variation of Bach's timeless Goldberg Variations. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, March 06