Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

J.S.BACH Goldberg Variations arr. Labadie
Les Violons du Roy/Bernard Labadie
Dorian- 90281 79'30"

This thoughtful and well considered presentation of the Goldberg Variations for strings and continuo was recorded September 1999 in Quebec by an expert Canadian group. The arranger/conductor discusses the 'authenticity' issues in depth and gives ample justification, reminding us that in 18th C. no original score was sacrosanct and performers invariably adapted and rearranged music - without acknowledgement, unless doing so might be commercially advantageous. The changes here are scrupulously annotated and Labadie does not expect us to prefer his version to the original; he intends it to demonstrate the flexibility of great music and for us to enjoy this masterpiece in a new light.

He is triumphantly successful, from the first statement of the Aria by solo violin (the admirable Nicole Trotier) coolly expressive without vibrato, with viola, cello and theorbo, to its return at the end, muted. The instrumentation is varied through the 32 tracks, the full complement of four violins, viola and cello, harpsichord and theorbo employed relatively infrequently.

The mind-boggling difficulty of many of the variations on the keyboard is replaced here with elegant ease and freshness, the dance basis of so much of Bach's music very much in evidence. Recording (with no dynamic compression) and liner notes are beyond reproach.

It is not intended to displace your preferred harpsichord version, nor the modern piano realisations in your collection by Gould or Tureck. For a preview of the next Goldberg, soon to appear, see S&H's review of Murray Perahia (RFH, 27 March).


Peter Grahame Woolf




Peter Grahame Woolf

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