JS Bach: Goldberg Variations

In the Goldberg Variations Bach answered a modest request – reputedly from an aristocratic patron who wanted music that was ‘soft and somewhat lively’ as a distraction from insomnia – with a work of immense scale and ambition, a great musical journey that traverses a dazzling kaleidoscope of musical styles.

The music’s wit and virtuosity is matched by the exquisite contrapuntal tracery of the canons that form the work’s backbone, and by the tragic grandeur of the minor-key variations, which contain some of the most poignant music Bach ever wrote; the homecoming, as Bach ends by returning to the opening Aria, is one of the most moving passages in all music. Peter Hill here continues his acclaimed series of Bach recordings with a searchingly imaginative performance, capturing the music’s zest and its depth of feeling in a reading that is as profoundly poetic as it is beautifully coloured.

Hill’s 6th recording for Delphian, captures the artist at the very height of his powers.

"He addresses that Everest on the landscape of Bach’s keyboard writing, and with characteristically unshowy yet compelling results. He’s up against stiff opposition of course…But there’s an honesty and intelligence that earns him a place at the top table if not quite at its head. He’s pondered the piece long and hard…overall Hill charts a pre-eminently lucid and illuminating course."


"His exposition of the opening theme is like a slow awakening, the melody unfolding with graciousness and relaxed inevitability, its underlying harmonies perfectly cushioning the eloquence. The 30 variations follow with crispness and delicacy, each capturing their relative complexity in a drama that unfolds with flowing logic and unrelenting good taste. Hill’s pacing captures that essential balance between action and reflection. It is a performance of enormous satisfaction and fulfilment."

"The recorded sound is excellent, allowing every subtle nuance of phrasing and dynamic to make its point, while enhancing the sense of atmosphere which Hill sees as a priority...Hill makes a strong impression by under-stating it with a restrained dynamic and with phrasing of the utmost tenderness.The determinant of a fine performance is always whether the listener feels that the music could not possibly be otherwise and that is what Peter Hill achieves here."

"Hill plays this music with a great deal of affection. While Bach’s pedagogical intent is always clear in the two- and three-voice counterpoint, Hill reaches further to find the beauty in every melodic fragment. He’s not the least shy about using the piano’s expressive potential to colour the main ideas."

Producer: Paul Baxter
Recording venue: University Concert Hall, Cardiff, United Kingdom
Recording dates: 6-8 November 2017
Number of discs: 1
Release date: 18 May 2018
Catalogue No: DCD34200
Total playing time: 1:18:48

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