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New Bach Recordings: Goldberg Redux

available at Amazon
Bach, Goldberg Variations, J. Crow, D. McNabney, M. Haimovitz

(released on September 16, 2008)
Oxingale OX2014

Online scores:
BWV 988
The Goldberg Variations are something of an obsession here at Ionarts, and we have liked hearing it in countless versions, played on the harpsichord and piano, as well as all kinds of transcriptions. One of the best transcriptions -- both maddeningly anachronistic and vastly seductive -- is the one for chamber orchestra by Dmitry Sitkovetsky, adapted and enlarged from his earlier arrangement for string trio. This new recording of Sitkovetsky's string trio transcription is only the latest of several options, and although earnest, this disc from cellist Matt Haimovitz and friends, on Haimovitz's label (Oxingale), does not really compete. Jens has already called it correctly by singling out Sitkovetsky’s own 1995 recording with Gérard Caussé and Mischa Maisky (Orfeo) as the best one to buy (but pricey), followed by the more recent and less expensive disc from Julian Rachlin, Nobuko Imai, and Mischa Maisky (DG).

The Haimovitz recording came out only a year after the Maisky one, in conjunction with the trio's performances of the work on its touring schedule. Even without the unfortunate coincidence with the Maisky disc, it would be hard to recommend this CD, on account of too many tracks marred by sloppy attacks, tuning issues, and ill-coordinated ensemble. That being said, I admire what Matt Haimovitz does, bringing classical music to unexpected venues and thus to audiences much harder to reach. Many people have probably purchased this CD after hearing one of Haimovitz's concerts, and that is a good thing. In the context of a bar or cafe, these deficiencies would probably stick out less to the ear, but for close listening the bar is set much higher.


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