Hannes Minnaar’s Distinctive Goldbergs

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Hannes Minnaar brings many positive assets to Bach’s Goldberg Variations. His superb finger independence helps vivify and characterize the contrapuntal writing at any tempo, abetted by varied articulations and imaginative yet discreet use of the sustain pedal. The pianist clearly enjoys modifying voicings, amplifying textures, and shifting accents on the repeats (which he observes in full, including the Aria da capo), not to mention unfettered and creative ornamentation.

In contrast to pianists who shape the work in long arcs through unified tempo relationships (Perahia, Schiff, and Gould in his 1981 recording), Minnaar generally treats each variation as a separate entity. He undermines the music’s cumulative impact as a result, yet the pianist’s consummate mastery and control may win over listeners in the long run.

The gorgeously introspective Daan Manneke composition included with a bonus disc is followed by a reprise of the Goldberg Aria. As much as I appreciate Minnaar’s Bach, I hope that this release will draw serious attention to Manneke. And while I have the floor, let me promote the latter’s large-scale work called Grote Archipel; it’s one of the contemporary piano repertoire’s unsung masterpieces. Bach’s Goldbergs, of course, need no special pleading, while Hannes Minnaar’s pianistic distinction deserves serious attention.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Bach Goldberg Variations: Perahia (Sony); Schiff (Decca); Gould (Sony)

  • BACH, J.S.:
    Goldberg Variations BWV 988
    Gedanken zu Bach – Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig A.D. 2020
  • Hannes Minnaar (piano)

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