J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Goldberg Variations

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Alan Curtis
Individual Works:Aria with 30 Variations ("Goldberg Variations") BWV 988
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:EMI
Catalog Number:7 63062 2
Year Released/Recorded:1977
Total Playing Time:76' 10"
Comments:Brock MacDonald said:

This recording of the Goldberg Variations was first released in CD format in 1989 and has been in and out of the catalog several times since then; I'm not sure whether it is available at the moment. If it isn't, shame on EMI: it won a number of prestigious awards on its initial release (the Deutscher Schallplattenpreis, the French Grand Prix des Discophiles) and still stands up very well to the competition (i.e. the ever-expanding number of Goldbergs on the market).

Curtis gives a very fine, eminently straightforward performance of the Variations, neither too fast nor too slow, featuring some very subtle and effective ornamentation of the repeats. Interestingly, he doesn't play all the latter, arguing (IMO quite rightly) that "to feel obliged to play all repeats seems. . .pedantic, while to omit them all is akin to reciting a table of contents." This inconsistency may irritate some listeners, but I find it refreshing, a relief from the tendency of so many musicians in this age of "authenticity" to take dogmatic positions on such matters.

What makes Curtis' performance rather special is the instrument he uses, a 1728 harpsichord by the great Hamburg maker Christian Zell. It has a wonderful champagne sparkle and a beautiful range of tone colours, and is very well-recorded (it has been used on discs by other musicians, notably Bob van Asperen, but its sound has never been captured as successfully as here). A must for anyone interested in the sound of Bach on historic keyboard instruments.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Brock MacDonald
Date First Submitted:07/03/2002