The single greatest performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations: Pierre Hantaï with rhythmic drive and life
I’ve been listening to JS Bach’s Goldberg Variations for a quarter of a century now. I haven’t actually said much about this piece on this blog, although I did mention attending a concert featuring a string trio arrangement of it a year ago.
I have a favorite recording, out of probably a dozen recordings I have heard since a college friend introduced me to the piece performed by Glenn Gould on piano . Several years ago I discovered my true favorite, upon encountering Pierre Hantaï on harpsichord in a CD recording.
Why Hantaï stands out for me
Given that there are plenty of other performances that I consider worthy, why is Hantaï’s by far my favorite?
- sustained intensity (many performances have me getting bored and sleepy)
- rhythmic drive is always there; the music never droops
- subtlety and shape to all phrasing and contrast
- no distractions of self-absorption (many performances have certain kinds of oddities that are magnified when spread out over an hour or more)
- nice harpsichord sound
Note: I once didn’t like harpsichord, and always preferred a piano when possible, but now I actually prefer Bach’s music on harpsichord, because of the nature of articulation and decay and how dissonances are more delicious on this instrument.
Here’s a treat I just found by accident: a video of Hantaï performing the Goldberg Variations. Watch it if you care about the Goldberg Variations at all!
If you are already a fan of the Goldberg Variations, what is your favorite performance, and why? Also, does it matter to you whether piano or harpsichord is used?comments powered by Disqus