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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Goldberg Variations, BWV988 [77.45]
Beatrice Rana (piano)
rec. 7-8 November 2016, Teldex Studio, Berlin
WARNER CLASSICS 9029 588018 [77.45]

Until Michael Cookson’s review of this recording, I had had been unaware of this young Italian pianist: clearly my loss. I am totally bowled over by her performance of this pinnacle of the keyboard repertoire. How can a 23-year old have accumulated enough life experience to have produced such an extraordinarily perceptive and intelligent performance? What will she be like in another decade or two? Last year I reviewed the Goldbergs of a similarly youthful German pianist, Maria Rosa Gunter, and suggested that it would have been better had she waited for another twenty years. I am very grateful that Ms Rana did not.

Each of the thirty-two movements has something special. The aria itself, at over five minutes, is the longest in my collection except for Simone Dinnerstein, but at no point does it seem slow or static. Rana’s approach is less harpsichord-like than Angela Hewitt, but she does not overly romanticise the work as Dinnerstein occasionally does. We have the full gamut of emotions – playfulness to passion – whilst respecting the fact that this work was written over 250 years ago.

The notes, written by Rana herself, are again perceptive and intelligent. I especially like the analogy to the Mona Lisa. The recording is natural, and avoids mechanical or artist noise. It is a totally flawless product. I haven’t raved about a new recording like this for quite a while.

The Goldbergs are very special to me: the aria is what I will ask to be played at my funeral. For almost two decades, the Goldbergs of Angela Hewitt and Murray Perahia have been my touchstone, and I never expected to find another that would go close to them, yet here is one that has achieved just that, providing a different view of this wondrous music.

Without a shadow of a doubt, this is my first Recording of the Year for 2017; I believe it will be the best I will hear all year, and possibly for years to come.

David Barker

Previous review: Michael Cookson

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