Bach: Goldberg Variationsby Richard Egarr
Above everything else, Richard Egarr wants to make his harpsichord sing, to let its ringing tones and majestic sonorities sculpt a legato line similar to the sound of the human voice. While this may seem an unlikely if not altogether impossible goal given the plucked and struck harpsichord's justified reputation as a keyboard instrument with little or no sustaining capability, Egarr does come close to his goal in this recording of Bach's "Goldberg Variations" coupled with his "Goldberg Canons." The tonal opulence of his harpsichord, a splendid copy of an earlier instrument re-voiced with seagulls' quills and re-tuned in a system with distinctly warmer overtones, is only part of the reason; the greater part is Egarr's touch, his technique, and his interpretations. His touch is less an attack and more of a caress. His technique is virtuosic but never obvious. His interpretations, while intellectually bracing, are also emotionally affecting, balancing the rigor of his canons with the sorrows of his adagios and the wit of his "Quodilbet" by the ethereal beauty of his Aria da capo. While Egarr does take all the repeats, thereby doubling the length of the work, and adds 14 brief canons to the end of the program, his performances are so light, so deep, so indescribably but undeniably vocal that, when the second disc ends, all one wants to do is start it over again. Harmonia Mundi's sound is clear, full, and vivid.
- Release Date:
- Harmonia Mundi Fr.
- Goldberg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier-Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9)
- Verschiedene Canones (14), for unspecified instruments or keyboard, BWV 1087
Performance CreditsRichard Egarr Primary Artist
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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