MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2023
Approaching 60,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing



Buy through MusicWeb
for £5.99 postage paid World-wide.

Musicweb Purchase button

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Goldberg Variations, BWV988* [38:27]
Overture (Partita) in b minor in the French manner, BWV831** [25:28]
French Suite No.5, BWV816** [16:28]
Glenn Gould (piano)*
András Schiff (piano)**
rec. 1955. ADD (Gould); 1978. DDD (Schiff).

Experience Classicsonline

This 1955 recording of Bach’s great masterpiece, the Goldberg Variations, brought Glenn Gould fame and public recognition. I must lay my cards on the table and say that whilst I appreciate Gould’s incredible virtuosity and pioneering achievements, especially in the music of Bach on the piano, I find that other pianists of more recent times have made much finer recordings of this work.
To start with, Gould gives us no repeats. As Angela Hewitt points out, this practice has frequently been a requirement of concert promoters in order to allow time for another work or works to be played in the same concert. She says that she played the Goldberg Variations with all the repeats for the first time for her Hyperion recording, and that she realized how much greater the work became both from architectural and musical points of view. I agree with this wholeheartedly.
(Her recording is available on a single Hyperion CD (CDA30002 and CDA67305) or as part of a set (CDS44421/35), each also available as mp3 or lossless downloads from Download of the Month - see October 2010 Download Roundup for details. I never got round to including the full track-listing that I promised, but you can find it and listen to samples here. Brian Wilson)
Listen to the lovely, imaginative ornamentation in the repeats of Variation 2 in Murray Perahia’s performance on Sony Classical (SK89243). In Variation 8, he varies the repeats by giving prominence to each of the two parts in alternation. In Variation 9, both Perahia and Hewitt quite rightly vary the repeats by relying on the piano’s expressive possibilities rather than on ornamentation. In Variation 20, Gould plays so phenomenally fast that the piece, without repeats, is too short and seemingly inconsequential. The speed allows for minimal expression. Perahia also has stunning finger-work, but we can hear everything we need to, and both he and Hewitt give wonderfully expressive performances of this Variation.
Other short variations also seem perfunctory without the repeats. In Variation 22, Gould seems aggressive in comparison with Hewitt. After a light start, she plays the repeats forte. Perahia and Hewitt observe all the repeats, often using further ornamentation and frequently beginning the repeats more softly. For example, in the opening Aria, Perahia plays the repeats with great delicacy. As in Variation 9, he doesn’t vary the ornamentation but relies on the piano’s expressive possibilities for contrast.
My other problem with Gould’s performance is his insistence in the more speedy variations on playing as fast as possible and sometimes even faster. In almost all the variations, Gould is quicker than Perahia, who in turn is generally a touch more speedy than Hewitt. What amazing virtuosity Gould displays in variation 5. One can admire him, but it is performed at a ridiculously fast tempo. Perahia’s less crazy speed allows us to be enchanted by the subtle colouring and balance of his playing, and Hewitt displays even greater expressiveness here.
Variation 14 is presented by Gould in a relentless and unforgiving way, without a moment of repose, whereas Hewitt is lightweight but more expressive. I feel that Variation 24, a 9/8 time pastoral-like piece, should swing along gently as in Hewitt’s beautifully expressive and delicately nuanced performance. Perahia is a little quicker with more forward thrust, but not as fast as Gould who presents this variation in a very different mood. However one exception is Variation 25, perhaps the greatest and most moving variation of all. Here, Gould is eccentrically slow, and it is just as well that he plays it without repeats. Hewitt and Perahia give this Adagio more flowing, expressive and satisfying performances, and the repeats are wonderfully played too. Surely Bach would have approved. Actually, Gould himself re-recorded the Goldberg Variations in 1981, and he included some repeats. He rejected this 1955 recording, saying that much of it was too fast and showy.
Gould also presents a more aggressive mood than other players in some variations. Hewitt describes Variation 11 as a gentle gigue-like toccata. Hers is a gently flowing performance, attractively played with nice colouring, whereas Gould is louder and more energetic. Perahia and Hewitt also give more expressive performances of Variation 15, the sorrowful conclusion to Part 1. Hewitt is especially delicate here.
Gould’s recording sounds rather dry compared with modern recordings, but this is also due to the fact that he appears not to use the pedal. Perhaps he is trying to produce a sound nearer to that of the harpsichord, rather than use too many of the resources of the modern piano. Maybe players like Hewitt and Perahia, who use the full resources of the piano, are not to everyone’s taste. However they both do this in a thoroughly tasteful way and I believe that if you play Bach on the piano, don’t try to make it sound like a harpsichord.
We also have to endure a certain amount of singing and groaning from Gould, which I find irritating even on a single hearing. I know that for many musicians, Gould has a god-like status. They worship the very ground upon which he walked, and I will be shot to pieces for writing this review. I do appreciate Gould’s great achievements, especially at the time he was recording, but nowadays Bach is played better by such as Perahia and Hewitt, and they are my equal first choices. Their performances are wonderfully virtuosic but also deeply thoughtful and spiritual. Both players perfectly inhabit the wide variety of moods and meaning that Bach presents to us in this great masterpiece.
András Schiff is another fine Bach interpreter, and in the Overture in the French Manner he always adopts convincing tempi for each successive dance. In the Overture we have real clarity in the first section with precise double dotting, followed by a brisk and exciting middle section with lovely expressive qualities. In the reprise to the opening music, Schiff delights with tasteful ornamentation. The dance movements which follow, both in the Overture and in the French Suite No.5 which is also on this disc, are played characterfully with a true feeling for Bach’s style, though sometimes in a rather romantic manner. In the Overture, Passepied I is effectively dramatic and robust, and it is followed by a gentler and slower Passepied II. The Gigue is beautifully articulated. The Allemande which opens French Suite No.5 is warmly played and Schiff gives delightful ornamental variety on the repeats.
Schiff offers wonderful Bach playing of the highest quality. This is for you if you are happy to hear Bach played on the piano rather than the harpsichord.
Geoffrey Molyneux
















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

Past 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

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.