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I wish Galling had more charm or imagination
on July 13, 2013
Even at the incredibly low price of 99 cents for all of Bach's solo harpsichord music, I considered this set with some trepidation. This was because I remembered Galling's VoxBox recordings from the 1960s as sufficiently clear and accurate, but also rather hard-edged, literal-minded, and charmless. In fact, a friend described Galling's Bach as "like a mathematical machine-gun," and my sense was that I was listening to a dodged musical plodder rather than a real musician. Finally, however, given the low cost and the fact that the set contained a few pieces I didn't already own, I decided to bite the bullet.
Unfortunately, I'm afraid I don't care for Galling's performances any more now than I did in my college days. To my ears, his playing lacks the kind of poetry, rhythmic spring, or imaginative phrasing one finds in different ways in keyboardists like Leonhardt, Pinnock, Staier, Gould, Lipatti, Hewitt, Schiff, Horzowski, Richter, or my latest discovery, the pianist James Friskin who appears in Bach Guild's recently offered Bigger Bach Set.
Galling is OK as background music, but when I listening to him with any attention for even a few minutes, I find myself "changing channels" to some performance I enjoy more. If you're new to Bach's wonderful keyboard music and pick up this set, don't make any final judgements about Bach until you hear his music played by one of the other keyboardists I've mentioned.
Vox did employ some very fine pianists back in the day, including Alfred Brendel, Abbey Simon, Walter Frankl, Walter Klien, Michael Ponti, and Jerome Rose (whose Liszt 'Années de Pèlerinage' is quite extraordinary). You might like Galling's Bach more than I do, and for 99 cents you can't really go that far wrong. This review would be 1 or 2 stars if the price were higher. However, consider exploring some other performers before or after you've heard Galling's Bach.
If you're looking for REAL bargains, search out some of the alternate Vox performers mentioned above, and also check out Bach Guild's various Big Boxes (Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Mozart, Hadyn, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Mahler, Tchaikovsky, etc, etc), which in my view are true must-buys.