- Goldberg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier-Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9)
The now infamous story of how J.S. Bach's "Goldberg Variations" received their name -- that Bach was asked to write them as a sleep aide of sorts for Count Kaiserling, whose assistant (Goldberg) would play music to help the Count fall asleep -- has been found to be a somewhat unlikely and dubious account. Still, with few competing explanations, this at least makes for a good story. The variations have been analyzed and dissected by theoreticians, mathematicians, and even numerologists perhaps more than any other of Bach's works. They have also been transcribed for virtually every combination of instruments imaginable, some with questionable results. The present recording delivers the variation set in a popular and frequently played version for string trio arranged by Dmitry Sitkovetsky. Performing are violinist Jonathan Crow, violist Douglas McNabney, and cellist Matt Haimovitz. For the purists out there who would argue that such a piece should not be transcribed at all, take heart. The performance by this trio is not only true to the score, but also pleasingly executed with a period, Baroque-style aesthetic. Each of the three musicians is a master not only of his individual instrument, but of dynamic chamber music interaction. The quickly shifting voices of the canons are deftly passed between the three, paying careful attention to dynamics and balance. Articulation, intonation, and rhythm are all pristine. The sound quality of the recording incorporates a tasteful shade of haze and reverb, creating a pleasing sense of spaciousness.