One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger


Some items
to consider

in the first division

extraordinary by any standards

An excellent disc

a new benchmark

summation of a lifetime’s experience.

Piano Concertos 1 and 2
Surprise Best Seller and now

A Garland for John McCabe


DIETHELM Symphonies

The best Rite of Spring in Years

BACH Magnificat

Brian Symphs 8, 21, 26

Just enjoy it!

La Mer Ticciati







alternatively Crotchet


Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Goldberg Variations BWV988 [94:14]
Aria variata in A minor BWV 989 [16:56]
Italian Concerto in F BWV 971 [13:30]
Overture in the French Style (Partita in B minor) BWV 831 [33:48]
Rosalyn Tureck (piano)
rec. No.3 Studio Abbey Road, London 1957 (Goldberg Variations), 1959 (Aria variata, Overture, Italian Concerto)
[78:53 + 79:44]
Experience Classicsonline

It’s not that long ago since a very similar programme appeared in Philips’ Great Pianists of the Twentieth Century series. That two disc set [456 979 2] had the Goldberg Variations, the Italian Concerto and the French Overture; the difference between it and this EMI GROC lies in the substitution by EMI of the Four Duets BWV802-805 by the Aria variata in A minor BWV 989. Otherwise things are identical.

The Goldberg Variations was recorded in London in 1957 and is the second of the many traversals left by Tureck – six altogether, at the last count, have survived. Tureck was an extraordinary Bach player, a musician of exceptional control, intellectual concentration and forensic probity. The famous slowness of her performances derives from an almost microscopic examination of the score, a process by which the harmonic corpuscles of the music are laid bare. In a way this kind of playing is as radical as Gould’s almost contemporaneous exploration of Bach; their means are mutually exclusive, utterly dissimilar and irreconcilable except in the immensity of the undertaking.  Theirs was not the only way; at the same time that Gould and Tureck were setting down their Goldberg Variations the Scottish pianist James Friskin was also recording it; Friskin, the husband of composer and violist Rebecca Clarke, represented an altogether older consensus and his playing sounds utterly different from their twin extremes. Fine playing though in its own tradition and overlooked.

Tureck was the Galen or William Harvey of Bach playing – a musician who studied the structure of the body and subjected it to the minutest examination. Her performance therefore lasts an astounding ninety-four minutes and the opening Aria alone lasts over six minutes. The result is a reading that is necessarily ponderous in the extreme, long on contrapuntal explication but without any sense of dance or movement. There is almost a sense of defiance about this kind of approach, a noble stasis that rejects frippery – or assumptions of frippery – in favour of a marmoreal, granitic monolith of a performance. True, many of the voicings are refined and Tureck’s musicianship can never be questioned; but at every turn one is confronted by a sense of the music that runs counter, ironically, to the body’s natural sense of motion. The forensic scientist has frozen counterpoint and in doing so has robbed the music of its true direction.

The Italian Concerto begins and ends with grandly rolled chords. It’s slow too but not suffocatingly so; there’s more of a sense of direction, less of a sense of an imposed, rational, schematic intellectualism at work. It is still sufficiently slow to generate a defined retardation of the rhythmic impetus of the music, though the slow movement benefits most from this kind of clarity and exposure – penetratingly done. The Aria variata is heard in Tureck’s own edition. It tempts her rather less to excess and it helps that each variation is concise. The opening variation for example, though an Adagio, has a surety of line that appeals ratter than congeals. The French Overture though is reminiscent rather more of Tureck’s way with the Goldberg Variations. One feels the greater the intellectual challenge the more extreme her responses. I think it would be fair to say that there is a greater sense of fluidity in the performance than there ever was in the Goldbergs but the static, caught-in-aspic tendency all too forseeably saps the music making of momentum.

In the case of the Goldberg Variations Tureck’s most impressive legacy is contained in her VAI recording – altogether more human and directional. As for transfers you should go for the Philips. This EMI GROC has been done in by their noise reduction system. It’s calamitous for 1930s recordings and, though not as extreme, not much cop for 1950s discs either. The Studio 3 acoustic has been sucked out; listen to this EMI version and tell me if you can hear any room ambience at all. You can’t – so go for the Philips if you want Tureck’s astonishing edifice on your shelves.

Jonathan Woolf 



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.