Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 - 1750)
Goldberg Variations
John Metz (harpsichord)
20 bit recording.Recording date not available.DDD
Soundset Recordings SR1013 [69.02]
Amazon USA

Everyone must know by now that this year marks the 250th anniversary of the death of J.S.Bach. Record companies everywhere seem to have pulled out all the stops to mark the year and more Bach CDs appear constantly. So, forgive the slightly jaundiced view if the thought of another Goldberg Variations doesn't exactly set the pulse racing. In fact, this particular recording for review was made in 1998 and has just come my way so that little moan isn't valid.

This version of the Goldberg is another of the series of discs issued by the Soundset Label of Arizona. Possibly because the U.S. is such a big country the label largely appears to draw on regional talents - in this case John Metz, who is Professor of Harpsichord at Arizona State University as well as having an active career as harpsichord soloist and continuo player throughout the United States.

The Goldberg Variations for those who do not know it, is a stated theme, the Aria, (a Sarabande) that is then followed by 30 variations that do everything the mind of man could devise on a keyboard.. There are canons to the left of' 'em, canons to the right of 'em, canons inverted and converted, all based upon the bottom line of the Aria.

Dr. Metz is a player of some stature and his performance was one to enjoy. The opening Aria - such a deceptively simple little melody but so utterly absorbing - was taken slowly, almost fastidiously. With repeats throughout the soloist plays in a measured, controlled way but relaxed a little in Variation 7 al Tempo di Giga. The Fugetta (Var 10) was a model of clarity while the penultimate track, Quodlibet (Var 30) has the mind working out the combinations of the two melodies. The sound from the keyboard (a modern instrument) is well captured in an excellent recording - 20 bit for the technically minded.

An excellent performance but this is a very crowded section of the market-place. The best advice if you want a recording of the Goldberg Variations played with a harpsichord is to listen to this and as many as you can.


Harry Downey


Harry Downey

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