- Goldberg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier-Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9)
There is certainly no shortage of recordings of Bach's "Goldberg Variations, BWV 988," but this version by a veteran American performer and teacher has something to offer to the interpretation of this work with so many facets and such a complex structure. Lisa Goode Crawford, a longtime professor at Ohio's Oberlin Conservatory and a performer on historical instruments since long before it was fashionable, plays a powerful harpsichord (apparently a copy of a Dutch Ruckers instrument, although this is not specified anywhere). It allows her to differentiate sharply among the variation types that make up Bach's massive edifice. Tempos in general are on the slow side, allowing the listener to luxuriate in the varied textures. She emphasizes the groupings of the variations into sets of three, with the first of each group being an established dance or simple polyphonic form, the second being a virtuoso vehicle often featuring hand crossings, and the third being one of a set of canons at intervals running through the entire set of possibilities. Crawford tends to cast the first in each set of three in a French style, with plenty of lingering over the ornamental figures. The second piece then contrasts sharply with brilliant, bright figuration, and the canons are straightfoward and severe. The disc is obviously the product of years of study, and there are many small pleasures in the details. Recommended for those who want a harpsichord performance of the work that has a distinctive profile based on the music itself rather than on an injection of the performer's personality.