CD Review: Nicholas Angelich's new disc of high-contrast Goldberg Variations isn't growing on me
There's been a flurry of fresh interest in Bach's Goldberg Variations since New Yorker Simone Dinnerstein stunned us with her Romantically flavoured recording four years ago. She made them as much her own as Glenn Gould had done a half-century before.
Being music written for harpsichord, the Goldergs leave a pianist open to a wide range of options when able to take advantage of the much, much larger tonal and dynamic palette offered by a modern piano.
Although I love Dinnerstein's interpretation, and have a lot of respect for Gould's original take, my personal gold standard is Russian pianist Evgeni Koroliov. I'm eagerly anticipating Canadian pianist David Jalbert's recently completed recording, which is being released in the fall (we can get a preview of his thinking at the Elora Festival on Jul. 30, when he presents the full Goldbergs in recital at St. John's Church, at 4 p.m.)
This review didn't make it in to today's Star:
Goldberg Variations (Virgin)
**1/2 (out of 4)
The gentle “Aria” that begins J.S. Bach’s legendary Goldberg Variations might fool you into thinking this is going to be a soft, seductive journey through a famous keyboard suite that marks the 270th anniversary of its publication this year.
But American pianist, and occasional Toronto Symphony guest, Nicholas Angelich has exaggerated each variation’s character, creating an 80-minute marathon punctuated by dynamic and stylistic contrasts: Slow variations are slower than usual; fast ones are dizzyingly fleet.
You can marvel at this man’s phenomenal control and technique, but this is one of those journeys that doesn’t improve with each return visit.
Here are four clips: 1. Angelich (Aria), 2. Koroliov (Var. III-VII, 2009) 3. Gould (Var. XII-XIX, 1955), 4. Dinnerstein (Var. XXV):