Notes and Editorial Reviews
The fluid, communicative, and innately musical Goldberg Variations recording once credited to Joyce Hatto (remember her?) turned out to be pilfered from a 1985 Naxos recording featuring pianist Pi-hsien Chen. Chen revisited the Goldbergs in 2001 (newly reissued here), and it's interesting to observe the extent to which her interpretation evolved. There's a wider range of ornamentation, while articulation and contrapuntal textures are more sharply honed, and certain variations have gained appreciable speed and fluidity.
You notice this in her altogether lighter and fleeter variations Nos. 1, 7, 15, 17, and 22. No. 3's canonic interplay registers more clearly now, as do the bass lines of Nos. 5 and 8, not to mention No. 11's
conversational interplay between the hands. Both the canon at the third (No. 9) and the famous minor-key "Black Pearl" variation (No. 25) emerge in less severe, more shapely and lyrical manifestations. No. 14's cross-handed writing retains its firm delineation, yet is less humorously characterized and propulsive this time around. Similarly, the second half of the French Overture (No. 16) comes off more aggressive, yet I prefer the earlier reading's delicacy and lilt.
Chen trades in her leisurely, legato-oriented 1985 vintage No. 18 for a faster model full of detached phrasing and agogic stresses. While Chen is more generous with repeats in 2001 than she was in 1985, there seems to be no consistency or logic governing her choices in this regard. Be that as it may, this worthwhile release upholds Chen's reputation as a serious and stimulating pianist, and not just for new music.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Chen Pi-hsien (Piano)
Written: 1741-1742; Nuremberg, Germany
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