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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Bach, Sitkovetsky, Goldberg Variations, Britten Sinfonia and Thomas Gould

Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations, originally meant for solo harpsichord, is surely one of the sublime moments of the baroque era, a set of variations that never ceases to yield up precious riches on every hearing. Dmitry Sitkovetsky's arrangement for string orchestra gives us a version that opens up the shifting moods and the contrapuntal genius of the set in ways that bring the music to us in even more depth. The Britten Sinfonia under Thomas Gould has recently recorded a cornerstone rendition of the arrangement (Harmonia Mundi 807633).

What's remarkable about the Sitkovetsky scoring and the Britten Sinfonia's performance is the vast timbral resources of the string orchestra and how it is put to use. The contrapuntal lines are all there to be heard as Bach worked them out with his architectonic genius. But the instrumentation changes for every variation, in both combinations of players and string articulation. Gould and the Sinfonia give us the detailed reading and heartfelt brio that is exhilaratingly true to the arrangement in the best ways. The tempos seem totally right for each variation and the three-dimensional qualities of the string sonance come at you stunningly in this beautiful sounding recording.

An arrangement like this demands a very sensitive collective instrument to succeed fully. Gould and the Sinfonia give us that. They come through with stirring realizations that put your ears in overdrive throughout.

I cannot imagine a better performance and the string arrangement is wonderfully definitive.

This is music that puts you in a super-human world and keeps you there throughout the duration.

Strongly recommended!

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