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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
The Goldberg Variations BWV988
Jacqueline Ogeil (harpsichord)
Recorded at St Ambrose Catholic Church, Woodend, Victoria, April 2003
ABC CLASSICS 472 164-2 [76.44]

I’ve reviewed a previous recording by the young Australian harpsichordist Jacqueline Ogeil. That was of Handel cantatas with her own group Accademia Arcadia, and a welcome disc it was too. Now she has turned to the Goldberg Variations.

I certainly enjoyed her playing once more; it’s technically accomplished, stylistically aware, has a consistent approach to repeats (all taken) and a keen ear for questions of scholarship. She taken a relatively sedate tempo for the Aria and employs some telling, but not over milked, rubati for instance, and employs some very precise articulation and voicings in the first canon. The Fourth Variation is crisp and almost brittle and the Thirteenth sees starkness in left hand articulation, coupled with staccato, rubati and well-graded accelerandi. I would say that she takes a fine, flowing tempo for Landowska’s Black Pearl (No. 25) that, even so lasts, 5.28. Such is her control that whilst it does sound brisk it doesn’t sound rushed.

Of course there are some other points to note. I don’t feel she gives enough weight to left hand voicings sometimes (No. 5 is a definite case in point) and there’s a certain deliberateness, an italicisation to the Third Canon that doesn’t sound quite natural. In the Fourteenth I wish she’d let the voicings "go" a bit more – so that the attacca left hand could have added bite and cross-currents. No. 16, the Overture, sounds unusually jerky and Variation 23 rather unsmiling. That said the final variations, from No. 27 to the end, are really finely done.

The sound quality is attractive without being particularly special; I was worried I would hear ambient noise from St Ambrose Catholic Church, Woodend – one hears a slight hum in the opening bars before she begins but it disappears; if it’s there at all I couldn’t hear it. This is a youthful performance of the Variations, rather dry-eyed and perhaps rather stinting on the potential for interior drama. It tends to elide and smooth out contrasts rather than playing them up and for all its accomplishment it doesn’t always present a cohesive view of the work’s structure.

Jonathan Woolf

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