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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Goldberg Variations BWV 988 (1741) [60.44]
Italian Concerto BWV 971 [13.42]
Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord)
rec. Henry Wood Hall, May 1979 (Goldberg Variations) and at the Paris Conservatoire, April 1980 (Italian Concerto)
ARCHIV 00289 477 5902 [74.34]

Pinnock’s life-affirming Goldberg Variations have been around pretty much uninterrupted since their initial release a good quarter of a century ago. And not that much has happened since to substantially challenge Pinnock’s right to stand near the top of the field of harpsichord recordings. Certainly a more consistent attitude to repeats may be demanded by some these days – though not necessarily by all and not, as it happens, by me. He elected to take just over half the repeats and the nature of the decision-making is reasonable enough. It might also be argued that economics played some part – back in the days of LP this fitted nicely onto a single LP, whereas taking all the repeats would have meant a third LP side.
His 1646 Ruckers sounds splendid and his performance is the kind that leaves the critic with blank writing paper – a sure sign of something good. His tempi are lithe and fast, though he can be deliberate in his treatment of the canons. I happen to feel the Canone alla Terza rather differently but Pinnock’s gravity and measured tempo allows him to explore the dissonances here. And similarly with the Canzone alla Quarta which does have a stately taciturnity to compensate for the relative loss of impetus. The feathery articulation he cultivates in the fourteenth variation is delightful, as are the darting, capriciously alive voicings of variation twenty. Landowska’s Black Pearl variation is neither unduly slow nor over compensatorily fast. It has gravity and significance without quasi-introversion. I should add that at all times Pinnock’s registrations sound apposite.
Coupled with the Goldbergs is the Italian Concerto, another thoroughly recommendable recording, though not quite in the same exalted league as its companion.
The novelty of this recording is the Original Image Bit processing that DG is touting. The original was certainly fine in its fidelity and clarity and this sounds no less than that. Beyond even that, Pinnock’s Bach recordings will always have an honoured place in the Pantheon.

Jonathan Woolf


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