Goldberg variations

The Goldberg crown has settled on a new head: Vikingur Olafsson’s Golberg Variations reviewed

Grade: A+ In 2018, the Icelandic pianist Vikingur Olafsson released a solo Bach album. It bounced along unforgettably. Olafsson’s subsequent albums for Deutsche Grammophon were all lovely, but like many ‘intellectual’ pianists blessed with a pearly touch he could sound a bit precious. I missed the playfulness of his Bach, and so when he announced he was recording the Goldberg Variations I was excited. Could he sprinkle the magic of his original album over this famous Aria and its 30 tightly argued variations, at a time when there are more than 200 rival recordings on piano floating around – and roughly the same number on harpsichord? (When Glenn Gould cut

The best recordings of the Goldberg Variations

I sometimes think the classical record industry would collapse if it weren’t for the Goldberg Variations. Every month brings more recordings of Bach’s monumental, compact and rhapsodic keyboard masterpiece. And that’s impressive, given that nowhere else does the composer demand such sustained technical brilliance from the performer, who must execute dizzying scales and trills that wouldn’t sound out of place in one of Liszt’s fantasies. If the Goldberg Variations are an ordeal for harpsichordists, they’re a bloody nightmare for pianists, because they have to tackle music written for two manuals on just one. Their fingers tumble perilously over each other; it looks a bit like high-speed knitting. When the 22-year-old