Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988

Reviewed on Mon 07 Sep, 2015

The beauty of this performance is its consistency, each variation carefully made to fit within the overall context as well as the context of its immediate neighbours, with never a jarring tempo or disruptive stretch of rubato.

Just as actors need to have ‘their’ Hamlet or Ophelia on tap, so today’s pianists are at the ready with ‘their’ Goldbergs. Tureck and Gould were prime movers but since their day the flowering of varied variations has provided a garden beyond compare. Lars Vogt is mindful of both period-performance practice and the timeless issue of sensitive voicing – as much a preoccupation among Bachians seventy years ago as it is now. The beauty of this performance is its consistency, each variation carefully made to fit within the overall context as well as the context of its immediate neighbours, with never a jarring tempo or disruptive stretch of rubato. Try the gently tripping second variation, its beauty as much due to the lilting phrases as the way Vogt subtly varies the tone in the repeats (all of which are played, by the way). This is a characteristic throughout the performance though the trend is never conspicuous. Crisp, capricious, elegant, clear, considerate of detail and the depth of Bach’s expressive language (I cite the humbling Adagio of Variation 25), this is as satisfying a set of Goldbergs as I’ve heard in a long while, its interpretative policy very much along the lines of ‘less is more’.
–Rob Cowan