BACH: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 – Andreas Staier, harpsichord – Harmonia mundi CD + DVD

by | Apr 20, 2010 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

BACH: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 – Andreas Staier, harpsichord – Harmonia mundi 902058, 80:46 (+ DVD, “about Bach’s Goldberg Variations”) *****:

Andreas Staier is an artist who moves all over the place, an historicist who still does not accept every premise set forth by that movement uncritically. Here is an example—this is no “Bach light” played on an anemic instrument from Bach’s time, but a fatso two-manual thrill-a-minute by Hieronymus Hass (1734). The first thing that you will notice about his recording is the sound of this instrument, orchestral in proportion and almost overwhelming in its emotional proclivities, something that might well akin Bach to the romantics after all!

Actually the sound might prove a distraction at first—I found myself more inclined to being swept away by the palpable force this instrument has than listening to the felicities of the performance, of which there are many. After listening recently to Matthew Halls’s fine and great-sounding reading (though slightly lacking performance)
on Linn  I was little prepared for the great-sounding harpsichord on this one. I do not exaggerate when I say that this is the finest and boldest instrument on record that still reflects period intentions.

Interpretatively Staier matches the instrument, to the well and good. He takes all repeats of course, and tops the 80-minute mark, but the time passes quickly and easily. It is nice to hear the Overture to Part 2 sounding for the entire world like it had the Orchestral Suites as an aural template. This may have been music for an amateur, but no amateur can play it, and Bach provides us with both intimacy and vastness on one canvas.

I will not trade Hall’s, nor does this one surpass Kirkpatrick, but it comes close to his spirit and opens up a whole new world of sound possibilities for this piece, thereby making us reconsider, yet again, what Bach had in mind when penning this amazing piece – so often recreated, and so often recreating itself. [The DVD is merely a sort of  view-once introduction to the CD performance, so I’m not listing this in our DualDisc section…Ed.]

— Steven Ritter