BACH: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 – Andras Schiff, piano – Decca Originals

by | Jun 12, 2006 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

BACH: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 – Andras Schiff, piano

Decca Originals 475 7508,  72:17 (Distrib. Universal) ****:

Recorded 1982 in Kingsway Hall, London, this performance of the familiar Bach Goldberg Variations (1741-42) by Andras Schiff is a milestone of its own – a balanced, sober, and exquisitely inspired approach that relishes the sound of the modern piano without attempting, a la Gould, to effect a touch more proper to the harpsichord. To be sure, some 12 times Bach calls for the two-manual instrument, and Schiff must facilitate some deft crossed-hand manipulations to achieve the desired clarity of lines.

Many of the individual variants on the 32-bar bass passacaglia become brilliant toccatas, passepieds, and inventions, and these Schiff executes with a studied abandon and lightness of touch that dazzle our perceptions. Music-box sonority at numbers 8 and 10; bravura digital finesse at numbers 14 (deliciously delicate) and 20; even more virtuoso legerdemain at numbers 11 (non legato) and 17, including reckless audacity at the Ouverture (No. 16) and lyric power in the G Minor variant at No. 25.  The calm serenity in Schiff’s technical arsenal bespeaks a happy combination of harmony and invention; and when the original Aria returns after over an hour of fearful, geometrical symmetries, we have been treated to an eminently persuasive reading from the musical Gospels. Piano engineering by Simon Eadon attends to every delicate nuance and passing grace-note. Very special. [And I’ll bet the original CD release required two discs and isn’t as good fidelity as this reissue/restoration….Ed.]

–Gary Lemco