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Fanfare Magazine: 39:3 (01-02/2016) 
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Reviewer: Bertil van Boer


It seems as if recently I’ve undertaken to review a plethora of Goldberg Variations discs, almost as if keyboardists had succumbed to some sort of infection that forced them to record these. That is not to say that the music is itself suspect, and indeed there is probably no more challenging and ubiquitous work, save perhaps for the Kunst der Fuge or the Wohltempierte Klavier, both of which share this piece’s iconic status. And now, here we have yet another set, by Spanish harpsichordist Andrés Alberto Gómez, recorded back in 2011. The questions, as always, are: How does this rendition compare, and has Gómez found yet another way to interpret this music that would set it apart?

Happily, there are some interesting things that make this a disc worth considering. First, it appends the 14 canons that were found not so very long ago, tipped into a copy of these selfsame variations once belonging to Bach himself. The simple theme, reminiscent of the Pachelbel Canon’s earworm bass line, is spun out in increasing complex variation form, here performed by the early music group La Reverencia, and it sounds just lovely with various combinations of flute, recorder, and gambas to give it texture and depth. The music itself is quite simple, but the energetic manner in which it is produced is joyous and quite entertaining, a fitting conclusion to the disc. As for the variations themselves, Gómez is particularly capable of bringing out the finer nuances of each one. The lilting, lyrical aria floats dreamily, with a certain fluidity that escapes what might have caused it to become mechanical. Gómez then proceeds on to the variations, each one of which is slightly altered in terms of phrasing to bring out the often tortuous lines that Bach wrote. For example, the canon at the second (Variation 6) is slow and deliberate so that the voicing is simple and direct, but the Overture (Variation 16) is dominating and forceful, just what one might expect of a proud French style. The Quodlibet (Variation 30) is folk-like and static, as if to wind things off in a popular vein. In Variation 28, the trills are handled deftly and the warbling provides an excellent underpinning for the theme.

In short, as much as we have overkill on recordings of the Goldberg, this is one disc that is remarkable for its interpretive qualities. As there is great variety out there, whether this is added to one’s collection will be a matter of personal taste, but I find that Gómez’s detailed and sensitive rendition is a real contender in a broad field. It is a recording that one really ought to check out for its skilled and imaginative quality.



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