No one’s being put to sleep by this rendition!

J.S. Bach

Goldberg Variations

Takae Ohnishi

Bridge Records CD 9357

The legend about the Goldberg Variations, that they were played to a nobleman by Bach’s student Goldberg as a cure for his insomnia, has long been dismissed. But another, more recent, legend about the piece has in some circles taken hold: that no new recording can compare to the incredible corpus of renditions already available. When it comes to an imposing and varied work such as this set – an aria and thirty variations, a third of them canonic – my feeling is: the more versions, the merrier.

And one certainly can’t help but be glad that artists are still committing their own interpretations of the Goldberg Variations to disc when hearing the new Bridge recording of the work by harpsichordist Takae Ohnishi. It is fleet fingered but not in the hyperactive fashion of Glenn Gould’s recordings, clarion in its brilliance, detailed in its delineations of counterpoint, canons, and other linear details, and, above all, varied in its articulative and timbral details in a way that never makes one miss the dynamic gradations of the modern piano.  If a nobleman had commissioned this piece to cure his insomnia or keep him company during it, he would have likely preferred to remain nocturnal with Ohnishi at the keys!