Céline Frisch JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH Variations Goldberg

Here is a package that satisfies intellectual curiosity and is musically delightful. This two-disc set begins with a precise, but still musical, harpsichord performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations by Céline Frisch. Her Aria is clean, with both the melody and the bass line countermelody clear and phrased so that everything comes together well. Her ornaments fit naturally into the melodies throughout the variations, without drawing attention away from the tune, and she always has a sense of direction and forward momentum. The second disc contains the 14 canons on the first eight notes of the bass of the Aria from the Goldberg Variations and the two songs that are contained in the quodlibet near the end of the Variations. The canons are rich and warm performed by Café Zimmermann, a string sextet that includes a double bass, with excellent contrasts in the feel of each canon. The song Cabbages and Turnips Have Driven Me Away is the highlight of the two discs. Period instruments accompany Dominique Visse as he sings about a hunter bringing a girl home to meet his mother. Visse switches from a jolly, idiomatic tenor voice for the hunter to a smooth alto for the girl, and a slightly grating alto for the mother, often in mid-verse. The humor he and the musicians put into the song will produce a smile, and perhaps actual laughter from those who follow the lyrics included in the notes. The second song, Ich bin so lang nicht bei dir gewest, is a dance that begins with a slow, improvisatory violin solo over a hurdy-gurdy drone. The Baroque guitar, cittern, flute, and percussion join in as the dance goes on and accelerates, in lively spirits, stopping before reaching a dizzying speed. Altogether, as well as being a good listen, the programming and the performances of this package give a little more insight into Bach's talent and what inspired him. (Patsy Morita)

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