This is the first Bach Garrick Ohlsson has ever recorded as far as I know. He's certainly not known for playing Bach in recital, although he did, a few years ago, have a program series that coupled the music of Liszt with other composers and I recall reading that in one of the recitals he played Liszt in the first half and the Goldbergs in the second. His way with the Goldbergs reminds me very much of that of Murray Perahia, with all the elegance and subtlety that implies, but with a greater sense of drama.
Except, and it's a big exception, he does not play any of the repeats. I gather he made this decision in order to give the set greater momentum, but I have to admit that it took me several gasps before I overcame my resistance -- I dug in my heels initially -- to this way of the doing the Goldbergs. The playing, though, won me over. He is just as good in the slower, pensive variations, e.g. No. 25, as he is in the more obviously virtuosic ones, e.g. Nos. 23 and 26. No. 26 is played as fast as I've ever heard it -- it goes like the wind -- and it's extraordinarily clear, leggiero and exciting. This is a very fine Goldbergs.
The short timing of the Goldbergs (46:20) is supplemented by one of the finest performances of Handel's Second Suite in F Major, HWV 427 I've heard since Perahia recorded it, along with all the other suites, a few years ago.
Ohlsson made his mark initially as a Chopinist -- you will recall that he won the Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 1970 (could it really have been that long ago?) -- and has made his reputation playing High Romantic music primarily, although he does have a very broad repertoire withal. Still, I would never have thought of him as a Bach/Handel player, yet here he proves he can hold his own and without romanticizing the music.
This CD is a treasure.