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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 -1750)
Goldberg Variations BWV988 (1741) [63:44]
Jesus bleibet meine Freude – Cantata BWV147 (arr. Myra Hess) [3:52]
Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor BWV 903 [13:15]
From the Notebook for Wilhelm Friedemann Bach; Preludes; BWV924-930 less BWV929 [8:08]
Six Little Preludes for beginners, from the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach; BWV933-938 [10:05]
Six Little Preludes BWV939-943, 999 [4:06]
Fughettas BWV961, 952, 953, 902, 902a [5:08]
Prelude and Fughetta BWV899 [2:28]
Prelude and Fugue in E minor BWV900 [3:27]
Prelude and Fugue in A minor BWV895 [4:18]
Italian Concerto in F BWV971 [14:27]
Maria Tipo (piano)
rec. Salle Wagram, Paris, June 1986 (Goldberg Variations); June 1990 (remainder)
EMI CLASSICS 3817452 [63:31 + 74:42]

No holds were barred when Maria Tipo took on the Goldberg Variations in Paris over twenty years ago. Her recording has now been reissued in EMI’s uniform twofer series that revives lingering material and reshapes it into comfortable double discs. Tipo approaches the variations in true romanticist fashion. There are myriad agogics and colours on display. Try listening to the colouristic imperatives and ensuing line-breaking of the second variation, or better still the mosquito accents of the first canon. These are all part of her expressive arsenal, one that many will doubtless reject as impossibly mannered. Still, for those who stay the course we can try to take her on her own, if not necessarily Bach’s, terms. So stick around and enjoy the way she turns variation seven into a limpid Sicilienne rather than a Gigue. She makes tremulous diminuendi in variation eleven, constantly varying her articulation, and gives us some ripe rallentandi in number fourteen. She has a “Tipo” sense of pulse – I was tempted to add that this meant “none” but that wouldn’t be fair – when she arrives at the canone alla quinta and manages to transpose up an octave for the right hand in number seventeen. She pets number nineteen half to death and indulges in stasis for Landowska’s Black Pearl.
The second disc was recorded four years later in Paris. Hess’s Jesu is unaccountably leaden but though still strongly romanticised I don’t find so many solecisms in the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor. Her use of the pedal and the sheer richness of sonority she evokes are best shown by the Prelude and Fugue in E minor. She’s very free metrically in this selection, once again, not least in the Fugue of the A minor Prelude and Fugue BWV895. The Little Prelude in C BWV939 is richly voiced, and she pedals powerfully through the E minor BWV941, adding a panoply of metrical displacements as well. I rather like the vibrantly stabbing left hand accents of the C minor BWV999. When we arrive at the Italian Concerto we find her pawkily bringing out the left hand lines of the opening movement and treating the central movement as a purely pianistic exercise in romantic expression. 
As for some specifics, in the Goldberg Variations Tipo repeats only the first half, with the solo exception of the last variation. Here and elsewhere her watchwords are rubati, rallentandi and staccati, some bass octave doublings, heavy pedalling and a wide and ripe expressive arsenal. The recordings were always pretty decent without being exceptional in any way. Therefore the question for the prospective purchaser is a strictly stylistic one.
Jonathan Woolf


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