Notes and Editorial Reviews
Includes bonus DVD.
Andreas Staier, a name that has become synonymous with period-performance practice, has waited a very long time to play and record this monument of the literature. He explains, in his introduction, that the harpsichord builder Hieronymus Albrecht Hass (1689–1752) built his instruments in hopes of creating the same variety of timbre that the organs of his time could produce. This is, perhaps, one of the most interesting qualities of this particular recording. Staier is never afraid to use these registrations to his full advantage, which would be a great thing if the harpsichord hadn’t been so very closely positioned to the microphones. Even with this, there are moments of brilliance in this recording. Every
time I listen to the fourth variation, it still surprises me. The quirky, bouncy way that Staier plays, using a brisk tempo, along with his simple but highly effective ornamentation, truly makes one want to physically get up and move. His performance of Variation 11 is also a lovely example of how to use a persuasive rubato, while also retaining a sprightly character and sense of meter. There are times, however, when the harpsichord on which he plays, along with his choices of registration, produces an unattractive sound; Variation 6, the canon at the second, is an example. There is so much emphasis put on the bass part that not only is it hard to hear what’s going on in the upper voices, but it feels bogged down. Variation 15, the slow G-Minor canon at the fifth, suffers similarly by an odd choice of registration alone; though the reasoning is obvious—the stark timbre that he chooses to use for this variation—the results are not as aurally successful as one might hope. The bass runs of the following variation, No. 16, the French overture, similarly sound muffled. A 20-some-odd-minute DVD accompanies this recording, basically explaining in further detail the performer’s view on the piece and showing him performing selections—something really of minor interest. Overall, Staier is persuasive in his choice of tempi, ornamentation, mechanical proficiency, and his basic characterization—one of the most important aspects to a successful performance of this piece. He has a way of treating these variations individually, much as Gould did in his first recording of the Goldbergs. Most importantly, he has...energy and life.
FANFARE: Scott Noriega
Works on This Recording
Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Andreas Staier (Harpsichord)
Written: 1741-1742; Nuremberg, Germany
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