- Harpsichord Concerto No. 1 in E flat major
- Harpsichord Concerto No. 2 in D minor
This disc will benefit from a strong curiosity factor, for the Goldberg who composed the music here is indeed the one for whom J.S. Bach is said to have composed his monumental "Goldberg Variations for harpsichord, BWV 988." The story goes that the Russian ambassador to the Dresden court, one Count von Keyserlingk, had insomnia and wanted a long, gentle work that could be played by his house keyboardist, the then teenaged Goldberg, in the next room. The two harpsichord concertos presented here tend to support the idea of contact between Bach and "Goldberg," who also studied with Bach's son Wilhelm Friedemann. The main stylistic model for Goldberg's concertos is Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, but there is a certain exhaustive quality to them that seems to bear the mark of "old Bach", as J.S. Bach was known. Both concertos are strikingly large in their dimensions. Consider the central movement of the "Concerto in E flat major," which at more than 15 minutes is nearly as long as the other two movements of the work put together. It's quite a forward-looking piece, with muted strings and pizzicato passages, and it trots out unusual harmonic moves (like flat six and flat three chords that kick off harmonic sequences) and explore their implications in discursive detail. The "Concerto in D minor," at more than 37 minutes, is almost Beethovenian in size, and even allowing for the influence of C.P.E. Bach its expressive language is advanced and intense. Unfortunately, this 1986 recording from the MDG label doesn't quite do these works justice. The harpsichord (of unspecified origin) played by Wardemar Döling lacks the zing to stand up to the more vigorous string passages in Goldberg's writing, and the accompaniment by the Sofia Soloists under Emil Tabakov is often shapeless enough that the music drags. Finally, the early digital sound is not up to MDG's later standards; the music has a mushy quality. Label and performers nevertheless deserve credit for unearthing some unusual works by a name every Bach lover knows.