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?

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?

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