Sunday, April 15, 2007

No, sir, I don't like it

In the late, great television show, Arrested Development, whenever something unfortunate and (often as not) ironic would happen to a Bluth, they would say "Come on!" I echo that sentiment when I listen to this record.

The Goldberg Variations do not need to be transcribed into a string-trio format. Bach said all he needed to say with a harpsichord (or a piano, as the case may be), and it is a testament to his genius that he didn't need a string ensemble, orchestra, organ, or anything else to make his point. Scott Ross and Wanda Landowska, though, I admit that I've never gotten Landowska, show how elegant and downright perfect BWV 988 can be. Neither of them needed anything except a harpsichord and a microphone to show off the beauty of the score. I'll except Glenn Gould from consideration, as it wouldn't be fair to anyone else to compare them to Gould - in 1955, 1959, or 1981.

To add orchestration where Bach left and intended none, despite the fluidity that some argue existed in Baroque compositions, is an insult to the towering genius of the keyboard. The recording is nice enough, but it's weird as all get-out to hear BWV 988 in any other context than the one Bach intended or its logical consequence on the piano. Frankly, pace Maisky et al., it sounds like Vivaldi dinner music. It's as though some A&R suit at Deutsche Grammophon decided that a harpsichord was too jarring to eat oysters, steak, and crème brûlée to, so they sweetened it to the point where the piece could be confused with the allegro from RV 269 (Don't believe me? Do yourself a service: A/B variation 1 and the RV 269 movement mentioned and then talk to me).

I can listen to the string arrangement, and appreciate it because, at the end of it all, it's still Bach (more or less), but I know the difference. That's the problem. When Scott Ross did the Goldbergs, they sounded like Bach. When Gould did them, they sounded - one imagines - like what Bach heard in his head. When the trio does them, they sound like a string trio. Not a crime against art, but a distraction.


At 2:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure what the purpose of this blog is - no links to any downloads


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