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Bach: Goldberg Variations; Handel: Suite No 2 / Ohlsson

Release Date: 05/30/2006 
Label:  Bridge   Catalog #: 9193   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian BachGeorge Frideric Handel
Performer:  Garrick Ohlsson
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BACH Goldberg Variations. HANDEL Suite No. 2, HWV 427 Garrick Ohlsson (pn) BRIDGE 9193 (59:36)

Despite my rants about over duplication of recordings of the standard repertoire, I welcome this new recording of the Bach, even though it is preceded by 176 available recordings, according to ArkivMusic. Garrick Ohlsson plays the Goldberg Variations as if they were a Read more set of character pieces, which seems wholly in the spirit of the composer’s intentions. He eschews the virtuosic style that some others favor, instead opting for generally relaxed tempos that let the music speak for itself. This is very similar to Ohlsson’s Beethoven. In the case of both composers, I do not mean to suggest that his playing is in any way ordinary or pedantic. There is grace, intelligence, and technical aplomb in everything this artist does, presented in an unfailingly self-effacing way. If you want flashy playing, look elsewhere.

It is also significant that Ohlsson does not slavishly play every repeat, which seems almost obligatory these days. The Mozart scholar Robert Levin has said that the repeat signs in Mozart are not suggestions, but commands, but it is not clear whether or not that is the case for Bach. Playing the Goldberg s without repeats, à la Glenn Gould, does engender a pleasing quality of concision to this magical music, and many of the recordings that do include all of the repeats do not afford the imagination and variety to make the effort worthwhile.

This highly rewarding disc concludes with a buoyant performance of Handel’s stately music. Repeat fanatics will have to pass on this one, but music lovers should consider it if it fills a hole in one’s collection.

FANFARE: Peter Burwasser

Garrick Ohlsson brings considerable pianistic and musical distinction to Bach's Goldberg Variations. Interpretively speaking, he's a centrist whose directness and (for lack of a better word) "normalcy" certainly will attract collectors who steer clear of idiosyncrasy (Gould), pedanticism (Tureck), or rapid-transit tempos (Jennifer Lin), and who also don't want any repeats. Ohlsson organizes his dynamics with such care and intelligence that the climax of a phrase or section always sounds grand and inevitable rather than super-sized, as his eloquently measured opening Aria and the toccata-like Variation 29 bear out. He employs ornaments sparingly, always to surprising effect.

Likewise, Ohlsson lets his fingers do most of the work, saving the sustain pedal for dramatic bursts of color, such as Variation 8's quick contrary-motion scales. This and the other cross-handed variations (those that Bach intended for two harpsichord manuals) particularly gain from Ohlsson's sharp ear for textural variety as well as from his capacity for digital fireworks. By contrast, the harmonic tension throughout the three minor-key variations speaks for itself by way of Ohlsson's seasoned simplicity.

All of Ohlsson's aforementioned virtues in the Goldbergs equally apply to the Handel F major Suite. Listen to the pianist's perky bass lines in the Allegro, the ravishing lyricism with which he orchestrates the third-movement Adagio, or the Fugue's noble lilt, and you'll agree. The piano's slight twang and pronounced registral differentiation also made me sit up and take notice. The instrument turns out to be a 1917 Mason and Hamlin concert grand. Is it for sale?
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Garrick Ohlsson (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1741-1742; Nuremberg, Germany 
Date of Recording: 01/1999 
Venue:  Michigan State University, East Lansing 
Length: 46 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: Nuremberg, Germany (1741 - 1742). 
Suite for Harpsichord in F major, HWV 427 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Garrick Ohlsson (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1720; London, England 
Date of Recording: 11/2001 
Venue:  Performing Arts Center, SUNY Purchase 
Length: 12 Minutes 42 Secs. 

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