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  • Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988
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Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988

18 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 30, 2003
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Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 + Bach: Six Partitas + Bach: Well Tempered Clavier, Books 1 & 2
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Product Details

  • Performer: Johann Sebastian Bach, Andras Schiff
  • Audio CD (September 30, 2003)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: ECM
  • ASIN: B000094HLA
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,438 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Musicus on September 26, 2005
Format: Audio CD
I am astounded by the negative reviews below. I have listened to many versions of the Goldberg variations, but never any better than this. I don't think I ever will be bored by Schiff's performance here. This live-concert is even better than his 1983-interpretation and I don't think it is possible to improve this one. It is relaxing and stimulating at the same time, a feeling of completeness that never is boring.

Moreover, I have never noticed anything wrong about the sound quality and think we use to blame the sound quality when we don't like the way of playing.

By the modern piano, you will of course not get any historically informed baroque music, but I can easily forget this, by thinking of it as pure piano music, valid by the eternal & boundless reason of Bach's musical thinking. So if the listening doesn't bring me back to Bach's era, it gives me something else, not less valuable. I cannot put this on without imagining something very pure, something white, like clean, new snow, white, firm and soft at the same time.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 9, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Mr. Schiff's beautiful, brilliant, powerful performance rediscovers one of the top works of the greatest of musicians. For those of us that for years were used to Mr. Gould's 2 great versions of the Goldberg Variations, this is a unique chance to enjoy this masterpiece in all its freshness and strength all over again; there are many interesting differences between the recordings and the musical approach is definitely original. A must-buy for the lovers of J. S. Bach music.
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55 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Gavin Wilson on October 19, 2003
Format: Audio CD
I have several versions of the Goldberg Variations, and this one is ideally suited to the CD era. Just look at the length of it, for a start: 71.11 minutes. Of the others, Glenn Gould's first recording came in at an extraordinary 38.24 mins, but this was pushing the limit of what a 1950s LP could handle. Glenn Gould's second version, releaseed just after his death in the early 1980s, was 51.20 mins long. My least favourite version, on Naxos by Pi-hsien, is 55.08 minutes of muffled, murky piano-playing.
Andras Schiff performed this new version two years ago in front of an exceptionally silent audience in Basel. (No-one appears to cough or fidget at all -- only once in the entire concert did I detect someone dropping something.) The recording certainly has the ambience of the concert hall, but there's not even any applause at the end of the recital. (Contrast this with, say, another ECM label pianist, Keith Jarrett, performing live, where the audience behaves in almost the opposite manner.)
Clearly there is not the sound of each page of music being turned over. I am so new to piano-playing that I am still in awe of anyone who can keep so much music in his head. (That's one of the advantages of recording in the studio!)
As usual with ECM CDs, the packaging is immaculate: detailed notes by Schiff himself, who first recorded this work 20 years ago, and even an acrostic poem on his name by Vikram Seth, author of 'A Suitable Boy'.
Will this CD usurp any of the affection I have for both the Glenn Gould versions? No, they will continue to find a regular place in my CD player -- I just love their eccentricities, and I find their relative brevity easier to cope with. 71 minutes is almost too much music for my mind to handle, but this is a fantastic version.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 25, 2010
Format: Audio CD
András Schiff is able to make even those who have Bach's glorious GOLDBERG VARIATIONS memorized from numerous other recordings (or having been able to play these extraordinary variations on their own) hear them afresh. Schiff's approach is so intimate, beginning with the statement of the original aria through all the variations until the aria is once again allowed to sing alone, that he makes us feel as though he were sitting at the keyboard in a room occupied only by the artist with us as the only guest. This is transparent Bach, every phrase and variation stated with such clarity and beauty that the fact that these variations are technically difficult is simply submerged in the quality of music that flows from Schiff's hands and heart.

Works as important in music history and in the hallowed place in the heart of millions in the centuries since it was composed are bound to have strong opinions about performance - whether the work should even be played on the piano as opposed to the harpsichord, whether what Glenn Gould attached to these variations are valid or no, etc - and that is unavoidable. What András Schiff accomplishes in this recording is that touch with transcendence that makes all other arguments fade. Yes, there are many superb performances of this work and a legion of recordings that are exceptional, but returning to the very origin - the aria on which the work is based - played in the way Schiff caresses it without smothering it in either sentiment or academia, gives ample proof that the following variations of that little miracle aria will satisfy the way Bach wished them to satisfy. No matter how many recordings you may have of this work, expand your appreciation of it with András Schiff. Grady Harp, July 10
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. Castro on July 11, 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I whole-heartedly recommend this recording to anyone who isn't so bogged down by early music dogma that they are unable to appreciate Schiff's nuance and musicality. The performance captured on this disc is live and in concert, so it isn't perfect, but that hardly matters because it only makes the experience of listening to it that much more real, more authentic (as opposed to some phony studio album with obvious splices and other fancy editing). At this point in my own musical career I am far more interested in hearing music that is engaging and personal, as opposed to that which is "perfect" or "historically informed," but also cold and sterile.

I also own Schiff's 1982 recording for Decca and love to compare the two in terms of tempos, articulations, dynamics, etc. There are differences, though I'm not sure which I prefer, which probably means that they both bring out unique aspects of the music and are worth spending time with.
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Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988
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