BACH Goldberg Variations. Hantaï (Opus 111) – INKPOT

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

OPUS 111 OPS 30-84
[77:26] full-price

The Goldberg Variations
BWV 988, Clavier-bung IV (1741)PIERRE Hantaï harpsichord

Pierre Hantaï (b.1964) has, within the space of a few years, quickly established a reputation as one of the leading harpsichordists of our time. It is no surprise, really, when one detects a profound understanding and simplicity of intention he has of the music he interprets. This is coupled with an honesty and allegiance to the printed notes and style of the music. He has studied with eminent harpsichordists Arthur Haas and Gustav Leonhardt, and is thoroughly acquainted with the works of the English virginalists and of Domenico Scarlatti.

The recipient of several international awards and kudos, Hanta has worked with the biggest names in the early music business the Kujikens, Savall and Herreweghe, to name a few. His various recordings on the French independent label, Opus 111, have garnered enthusiastic praise and widespread critical approval. The present recording earned the “Gramophone Award” in 1996, and is held by many as the best in the market of Bach’s keyboard magnum opus.

Here, Hantaï plays on a copy of a 1702 original; and the instrument’s sound is glorious helped, no doubt, by the warm recording sound which (the present writer feels) does not allow the harpsichord to sound “incisive” like on a number of L’Oiseau Lyre (that unfortunate victim of Decca Assimilation) tapings for Christophe Rousset, another worthy exponent of this music.

J.S. BachHantaï paces the gentle aria nicely, never indulging but letting it sing in long, unbroken phrases. His spritely rhythm is infectious in the first variation, never once letting go of its inevitable continuity; and contrapuntal textures in the canons are given much clarity each strand infused with its own individual character. Hanta’s unique seamless legato is truly something to marvel at it’s pure fluidity in the fifth variation. Listen again to the harpsichord sing in the lovely thirtheenth variation. And in variations 21 and 25, the instrument suddenly adopts a darker tone, as the music slips into the minor mode Hanta displaying unusual sensitivity to the ambience.

In short, this is Bach-playing of the highest order; and indeed, Pierre Hantaï’s consummate artistry and vision caters to everyone’s taste even the puritans! For listeners who prefer Bach on the modern piano for no reason other than the fact that they aren’t accustomed to the sound of the harpsichord, I urge you to sample this disc it could very well change your mind.

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