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Goldberg Variations - Matthew Halls - MusicWeb International

08 March 2010
MusicWeb International
Brian Wilson

Of recent years the best recordings of the Goldberg Variations have been on the piano - not least from Angela Hewitt.

Matthew Halls, now better known as the director of the former King's Consort, bucks the trend by offering the music on a 2-manual harpsichord and by including all the repeats, thereby making his recording too long for a single CD.  In the latter respect, he has the field entirely to himself, as far as I am aware.  I was not convinced by the recent Virgin 2-CD budget-price reissue of Bob van Asperen's performance of the Goldbergs; though I liked the Toccatas on the other CD, I felt that there was a need for a modern recording on the harpsichord to rival Trevor Pinnock.

Having greatly appreciated Halls's recent recording of Handel's Parnasso in Festa I had high expectations of his Bach. I was not disappointed.  I just wonder whether 91 minutes is not a little too long for the average listener - we aren't all insomniacs, as the original recipient is supposed to have been.  For that reason alone, I shall not be ditching my copy of the Pinnock.  Bach scholars, on the other hand, will particularly welcome the ability to hear the work at its full length.

Linn's 24-bit recording is excellent and, being at 44.1kHz, will play on Squeezebox, but it does take up a great deal of space, at over 1.5GB.  In whatever form you choose - mp3 and ‘ordinary' lossless are also available - an advantage of downloading is the ability to play the Goldbergs without break; on CD a change is required.

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J.S. Bach: Goldberg VariationsJ.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations