J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Goldberg Variations

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Wilhelm Kempff
Individual Works:Entire Goldberg Variations
BWV 988
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:Deutsche Grammophon
Catalog Number:430 978-2
Year Released/Recorded:1970
Total Playing Time:63.05
Comments:Jon Brooder said:

This recording is not for everyone. It is "The Goldbergs" stripped to their essentials, with no ornamentation. But there is a great deal of elegance in this performance of what is almost a sketch of this great work. it took a while, but I've grown to love this recording for all the things it isn't as well as all the things it is.

Keith Mak said:

Wilhelm Kempff made this recording in the final years of his life. Although Kempff was renowned for his interpretation of Beethovan's music, this particular recording of the Goldberg Variations by him is by all standards outstanding and refreshing. Having listened to many other pianists playing Goldberg, I personally consider Kempff's interpretation of the work as the most elegant of all. The tempo is perfect. The flow is smooth and natural. Kempff distils the essence of the Aria and all 30 variations without adding any "flowery" ornamentation. There is no repetition, and the resulting simplicity and smoothness is just perfect to ears of the ultimate Goldberg fanatic. This recording is a real masterpiece. In a way, the recording also fulfils the objective of the composer when he was commissioned to write this music for the king: to help him sleep. There is probably no other piece of music as peaceful and as elegantly presented by a pianist as Kempff with Bach's Goldberg Variations. I say to all serious Goldberg lovers, listen to it and you will be amazed how much you really love Goldberg!

Jose Bastos said:

It is quite a surprise when you hear the opening Aria. It sounds like a different work. Beautiful, but different from what you are used to. The variations are elegantly played, with a touching simplicity . In the end, the Aria already sounds familiar, when you hear the final repeat. Clearly not a first choice, but an indispensable complement for those who love this work.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Jon Brooder
  • Keith Mak
  • Jose Bastos
Date First Submitted:12/01/1997