This string trio arrangement of the Goldbergs is well played
by the Amati Trio. That said, this configuration lacks the level
of awe and fascination attained by Sitkovetsky’s arrangement
for chamber string orchestra (NES Chamber Orchestra, Nonesuch
79341-2, 1993). The orchestral version is light and shimmering:
veils waving in the wind, sun glimmering on the stream. It is
vivacious and humorous. Masterfully diverse, the orchestral
variant is a true match for the diversity of the piano version.
You owe it to yourself to hear that version.
Sitkovetsky also did this trio arrangement, and it turns out
to be just plain. The violin is on the top, the cello on the
bottom, the viola in the middle - no surprises, just splitting
the music into three voices. It isn’t boring - Goldbergs
can’t be - but it is … standard. Also, the performance
lacks the excitement generated by the NESCO, though the same
Ron Ephrat who played solo viola in NES is the violist here.
What we get from the Amati is more or less the same volume throughout,
more or less unchanging tempo. Where does one variation end
and the next begin? As with the harpsichord versions, the listener
needs to work, to add colors mentally. Perhaps I have been forever
spoilt by the orchestral version? I don’t think so. Even
considering the limited powers of a string trio, I would have
expected more grace and airiness. Most important, we lose maybe
the most fascinating feature of the Goldbergs: their infinite
inventiveness, their capacity to open new vistas at every turn.
The recording quality is very good, showing all details clearly.
It is rather close, yet spacious enough. The short liner-note
(English only) speaks about the history of public acceptance
of arrangements of Bach’s music. It also recounts the
performing history and repertoire of the trio and of each of
This disc may be perfect if you need to play some Bach in the
background: it is evenly pleasant, and keeps a stable dynamic
level. If, however, you want to know the real depth of the Goldberg
Variations, there are a few good piano versions - Oh, and did
I mention Sitkovetsky’s orchestral arrangement? Those
other versions have it within them to show why this work is
one of the cornerstones of Western music.
Masterwork Review Index: Goldberg