Solid Goldbergs from San Diego

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 9

Even with dozens of superb Goldberg Variations recordings vying for attention in the catalog, Bridge’s release featuring Takae Ohnishi is well worth hearing. The Japanese-born, San Diego-based harpsichordist favors tasteful registrations from her Aterlier Marc Ducornet instrument that make for subtle color contrasts between variations, such as the effective timbral shifts going from Nos. 15 through 17. Ohnishi ‘s use of double-dotting and agogics are never fussy nor rhythmically spasmodic in the manner of far too many “authentic” performers, nor do her ornaments divert attention away from Bach’s lines.

Certain variations stand out for Ohnishi’s vitality and impressively differentiated articulation: the first four; the Scarlatti-like cross-handed No. 14; the unusually emphatic canon at the sixth (No. 18); No. 19’s wonderful evocation of a minuet; the brisk yet flexible unfolding of the minor-key canon at the fifth (No. 15); and the so-called “Black Pearl” No. 25. At the same time, Ohnishi seems somewhat careful and studio bound in more overtly virtuosic variations like Nos. 5, 20, 23, and 29. In this respect, harpsichordists as different as Hantai, Rousset, Kipnis, Weiss, and Staier leave stronger personal imprints. Still, one cannot question Ohnishi’s solid musicianship and masterful technique in this excellently engineered recording. Ohnishi takes all repeats except for those in Variation 25 and the Aria da capo.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Rousset (Decca); Hantai (Opus 111); Kipnis (EMI)

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