Johann Sebastien BACH
Goldberg Variations, BWV988
Pierre Hantai (harpsichord)
Instrument made by Bruce Kennedy, Amsterdam 1985, after Michael Mietke, Berlin
1702 - 1704?
recorded digitally in Doopsgezinde Kerk, Haarlem, Netherlands, 9-11 June
OPUS 111 OPS 2024
Here is a disc to make your heart skip a beat. Everything about it seems
to have gone well from start to finish. I found it a very satisfying listening
The harpsichord used by Pierre Hantai is magnificent. Absolute clarity supported
by a first class digital recording quality that allows us to hear every nuance
throughout Bach's inspiration. Rather than try to play on an actual
18th century harpsichord, Hantai and OPUS111 have used a modern
reconstruction of an ancient instrument made originally between 1702 to 1704
as far as we can tell.
The new harpsichord was made by Bruce Kennedy Harpsichords of Berlin in 1985.
Whether or not this instrument sounds like the original is of little consequence.
In the hands of Pierre Hantai it becomes very beautiful voice from the past.
Unlike many rebuilds, there are very few mechanical sounds from the instrument
and so we can concentrate on the variations without having to make any allowances
Pierre Hantai has been studying the harpsichord from the age of about eleven.
His early teacher was Arthur Haas, under whose guidance he learned the
instrument, and then he formed an ensemble with his brothers. During this
time he won several international awards for his playing. He then spent two
years studying with Gustav Leonhart, after which he was asked to perform
under his direction. In addition he has performed with many of today's period
performance experts such as Philippe Herreweghe, Sigiswald Kujiken and Jordi
Savall. His pedigree is therefore well established and it shows in these
The aria with which the Goldberg Variations open is forthright and beautifully
articulated, and it ebbs and flows with the sense of the music. Hantai is
not afraid of confronting Bach's requirements head on, and there is not a
hint of prissiness anywhere in the work.
Each variation brings fresh insights, and the whole disc is finished off
by the final aria which brings the work to a very satisfactory conclusion.
The disc won a Gramophone Award in 1998, a Telerama ffff award, Diapaiso
d'Or, and Choc from Le Monde de la Musique. This, as far as I can gather
is its second appearance and you now have the chance to acquire it, this
time at mid-price.