Review by nickc February 15, 2005 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
|The Goldberg variations are one of Bach's towering masterpieces and must be in any self-respecting classical collection, but of course they were not written for strings but with harpsichord in mind. I could state the age-old chestnut: if Bach had wanted strings to play it he would have written it for them! I think you should have a keyboard version in your collection (I have Schiff's new ECM recording but Perahia has released an acclaimed SACD version on Sony). I must admit being a pianist who plays the Goldbergs himself (badly, and with the faster variations at about half speed!)I am a bit biased.
Having said that this recording is fascinating and highly entertaining. Dmitry Sitkovesky has arranged it for string trio (violin, viola and cello) and it works surprisingly well. Sometimes having three different instruments allows one to follow the contrapuntal intricacies of Bach with great precision. But more than that I love the sound of string instruments as well, especially the cello.
Andreas Speer (the boss of Tacet) takes great care with his productions. "Small" house bosses like Speer, Robert Bahr(BIS), Simon Perry(Hyperion) and Jared Sacks(Channel Classics) (Klaus Heymann at Naxos is just as important but on a larger scale)will be the saviours of classical music as companies like Sony and Universal release less going into the future. If you really want to cry think that EMI gave $100 million US to that musical equivalent of sugar floss Mariah Carey to pay out her contract - imagine what Jared Sacks could do with $100 million! (I did Macroeconomics at University and I understand the financial reasons - it still makes me want to throw up though).
This is a 4.0 not 5.0 recording. Though the most important thing is that we have 2 rear channels I still would prefer 3 across the front. How much better would it be put the violin front left, viola centre and cello front right instead of mixing the viola half in the right and left channels and trying to make it sound like its coming out of the middle. If you have a middle speaker use it! Reproduction of the instruments (especially the cello) is first rate. Annoyingly one of the trio sniffles constantly throughout the performance, and while it is not as bad as Gould's vocalise it is a bit distracting at points.
I would have also preferred a bit more fire in the faster variations; sometimes we just seem to be cruising along. It is not Bartok but I think people would know from my reviews I prefer my performances to be fiery. Conversley the great Black Pearl variation could have been a tad slower, though these are really nitpickety points (minus half a point on sound and performance).
My advice is "Buy it!". It really gives a fascinting new slant on an old masterpiece.
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