Goldberg Variations have been around pretty much uninterrupted
since their initial release a good quarter of a century ago.
And not that much has happened since to substantially challenge
Pinnock’s right to stand near the top of the field of harpsichord
recordings. Certainly a more consistent attitude to repeats
may be demanded by some these days – though not necessarily
by all and not, as it happens, by me. He elected to take
just over half the repeats and the nature of the decision-making
is reasonable enough. It might also be argued that economics
played some part – back in the days of LP this fitted nicely
onto a single LP, whereas taking all the repeats would have
meant a third LP side.
1646 Ruckers sounds splendid and his performance is the kind
that leaves the critic with blank writing paper – a sure
sign of something good. His tempi are lithe and fast, though
he can be deliberate in his treatment of the canons. I happen
to feel the Canone alla Terza rather differently but Pinnock’s
gravity and measured tempo allows him to explore the dissonances
here. And similarly with the Canzone alla Quarta which does
have a stately taciturnity to compensate for the relative
loss of impetus. The feathery articulation he cultivates
in the fourteenth variation is delightful, as are the darting,
capriciously alive voicings of variation twenty. Landowska’s Black
Pearl variation is neither unduly slow nor over compensatorily
fast. It has gravity and significance without quasi-introversion.
I should add that at all times Pinnock’s registrations sound
with the Goldbergs is the Italian Concerto, another thoroughly
recommendable recording, though not quite in the same exalted
league as its companion.
novelty of this recording is the Original Image Bit processing
that DG is touting. The original was certainly fine in its
fidelity and clarity and this sounds no less than that. Beyond
even that, Pinnock’s Bach recordings will always have an
honoured place in the Pantheon.