Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Bach - Goldberg Variations - de Maria

Rating: 3/5

Not for me

I'm not all that keen on Pietro de Maria's Goldberg Variations.  There are a lot of truly great recordings of these pieces, but I don't really think that this stands among them.

De Maria is plainly a very good pianist.  He is technically up to the challenge and his tone and touch are very lovely in places.  However, I don't think he does Bach all that well.  In the opening Aria, for example, there is a halting, almost stumbling feel to the rhythm at times which loses the pulse and flow which so vital to Bach.  He also manages something similar to what I hear in Ashkenazy's recent French Suites: somehow the lines of counterpoint don't gel into a whole at all in places so even more of the coherence is lost.  Then Variation 1 comes crashing in; I understand the need for contrast of mood, but the opening bars just seems like unsympathetic thumping.  I'm afraid I found both the thumpiness and disconnectedness in Variation 4, the staccato left hand seems almost elephantine in parts of Variation 14…and so on.

This doesn't happen everywhere.  I like the lightness and flow of Variation 5, the rhythmic flexibility works very well in a lovely Variation 13, and there are other good moments.  Overall, though, I think Bach himself gets rather lost in de Maria's interpretation and I'll be sticking to my treasured recordings by the likes of Angela Hewitt, Richard Egarr and others. I can only give this a very qualified recommendation.

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