Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

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 1992.
OPUS 111 OPS 2024 [77.26]
Crotchet  Amazon UK  Amazon USA

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 experience.

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 at all.

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 performances.

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.


John Phillips


John Phillips

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers : - The UK's Biggest Video Store

Concert and Show tickets


Musicians accessories

Click here to visit

Return to Index