Jory Vinikour is a young American harpsichordist who
has performed with various European groups and ensembles in recent years.
This is his second solo recording; the first, a recording of Bach’s
Toccatas, was released in 1999, and was well-received. His reading of
Bach’s Goldberg variations is quite unique, in a discography where every
harpsichordist worth his or her salt has "done" the Goldbergs.
First of all, the recording itself is brilliant, as
is the harpsichord he is playing. This Ruckers copy by Kevin Fryer -
inspired by the famous harpsichord in the Musée d’Unterlinden
in Colmar, France - has a brilliant sound, with sharp, incisive high
notes, and a rich resonance. The low notes are slightly lacking in depth,
but this does not mar the overall sound. In addition, the quality of
the recording is extremely good. There is no excessive reverb, and the
sound is very present and precise.
So, why does this recording stand out? First of all,
Vinikour is clearly here to perform the entire Goldberg Variations.
He is fortunate that Delos was willing to give him two discs so he would
not have to cut out any of the repeats nor adjust his tempi to fit the
recording. At over 85 minutes, this is a long performance, one of the
longest on harpsichord (though there are piano recordings that are longer).
From the opening aria he clearly shows his approach - he settles into
the music and lets himself go with it. At almost 5 minutes, this is
relatively long, as is the aria da capo at just over 5 minutes. In the
repeats of this aria, his ornamentation is quite florid, recalling Ton
Koopman’s highly ornamented style, yet Vinikour manages to not go overboard.
It is tasteful and interesting, rather than merely there to show off.
The same can be heard in the rapid variation 7, where Vinikour adds
brilliant ornaments to the brisk melodies.
In the slower variations he shows great sensitivity;
variation 9 is played with subtlety and feeling; variation 11 has excellent
phrasing and subtle nuances in the ornamentation make it come alive.
Variation 13 is played in a beautifully lyrical manner, which is delightfully
subtle and engaging.
Variation 16, the French overture that opens the second
part of the Goldberg Variations, is played here in a very flamboyant
style, with lots of energy and vigour. Vinikour shows he has the talent
to cover the full range of styles in the Goldbergs, and does so with
Variation 25 is one of the litmus tests for the Goldberg
Variations. At over 10 minutes long in this recording - twice as long
as some performers play it - this is almost like an individual work
on its own. With a scope as vast as the famous Chaconne of the D minor
violin sonata, this variation can be seen as a musical discourse. Vinikour
gives perhaps the most emotional performance of this variation available
for harpsichord. The combination of the fluid phrasing and crisp sound
of his harpsichord is unforgettable. (The slow performance of this variation
also lets the instrument’s tuning become more prominent. No information
is given as to the temperament used, but the slightly rough edges on
some of the notes are very powerful.)
(Note: there are two versions of this recording available.
The first is a normal, double CD set, sold at the price of a single
CD. The second is a more expensive SACD recording. The SACD disc has
two data layers. One layer uses the high-density medium found in DVD
to hold up to 6 tracks of DSD audio plus text information identifying
the disc and its tracks. The second layer is a standard "Red Book" CD
layer containing the same program that can be played in any standard
This is a brilliant, lively recording of the Goldberg
Variations, by a young harpsichordist who will certainly make a name
for himself as a soloist in the years to come. Vinikour’s energy is
quite exciting, and this is one of the most interesting harpsichord
recordings of this work available.