The arrangement of Bach's Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, for string trio by Russian violinist and composer Dmitry Sitkovetsky has taken on a life of its town, with multiple performances and even a sort of electronic remix by Karlheinz Essl. The appeal for string chamber groups longing to share in Bach's riches is obvious, and for audiences it appears to be another case of Bach's music standing up to whatever you do to it. Like most other annotators, Hyperion's Nigel Simeone tries to claim that the arrangement is on a par with the numerous transcriptions Bach made of his own works. It is no such thing; the string chamber texture by its nature adds expressive devices that were not of Bach's world, and he would have found Sitkovetsky's version bizarre.
Pianist Lars Vogt presents one of the classic works of the Baroque repertoire – Johann Sebastian Bach’s (1685–1750) famous Goldberg Variations. Originally written for the harpsichord the Goldberg Variations, published in 1741, embody an Aria with 30 variations and a coda. Bach wrote the work for Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, who, as the narrative says, often played music as a cure for Count Kaiserling’s insomnia. Apparently the work was one of the successes that Bach had during his lifetime and it was also published during his lifetime.
A peerless conception and realization of Bach's Goldberg Variations. Perhaps the most telling aspect of listening to Perahia's recording for me is that when it is finished, I want to start again at the beginning. It is as if a "world" is contained in this piece, and I am reluctant to leave it.
Who needs another recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations? After all, there have been so many great recordings of the work already – Landowska, Kempff, Gould, Pinnock, and Leonhardt, to name a few – that surely no one needs another recording of the Goldberg. Actually, everyone needs another recording of the Goldbergs provided that it's a recording of a great performance. There's too much in the Goldberg – too much brilliance, too much sorrow, too much humor, too much spirituality – for any one performance, even the best performance, to contain all of it. So long as the performance honors the work's honesty, integrity, and virtuosity, there's always room for another Goldberg on the shelf. This 2001 recording by Andras Schiff belongs on any shelf of great Goldbergs. Schiff has everything it takes – the virtuosity; the integrity; and most importantly, the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual honesty – to turn in a great Goldberg. Indeed, Schiff has already done so in his 1982 Decca recording of the work, a lucid and pellucid performance of tremendous beauty and depth. But as good as the 1982 recording was, the 2001 recording is better.
The Goldberg Variations are a pinnacle of Bach’s art. Conceived for harpsichord, the work has been transcribed for quite different instruments. . . Richard Boothby’s version for his own consort of viols, Fretwork, is arguably the most unusual, in that it opts for a soundworld that looks even further back in time. Part of the justification for such a setting must be Bach’s own liking for viola da gamba, already then old-fashioned…. Boothby’s setting is dexterously divided between various combinations of the treble, tenor and bass viols, and he achieved some magical effects, notably (…) in variations of gossamer passagework.
An air of leisure, if not outright luxury, pervades pianist Ragna Schirmer's 1999 recording of J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations. From the deluxe double-disc packaging – many Goldberg recordings make do with only one CD – to the taking of all repeats, this is a set for dedicated listeners who have ample time to appreciate the subtleties of Bach's art of variation, and the patience to devote nearly 87 minutes to hearing this work straight through. It would be unfair to suggest that Schirmer plays the variations too slowly, or that the performance is in any way sluggish or tedious because she takes her time. Indeed, she is quite capable of imparting a feeling of virtuosity and brilliance as she skillfully works her way through the embellishments and the trickier passages of Bach's elaborate counterpoint, …….Blair Sanderson @ AllMusic