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Bach: Goldberg Variations

Daniel Sullivan organ
at the Aeolian Skinner Organ at St Philip Cathedral, Atlanta

Raven OAR-905

This was such an enjoyable listen with a seemingly endless palette of colours, especially for this harpsichordist.

I couldn’t wait to see what happened in each subsequent variation!

There’s not much of the “Bach-aesthetic” about it: neither in the organ registration nor in the stylistic elements. Rather indulgent rubato is used but this helps with some of the phrasing and registration choices made. Ironically I found it musically convincing and I’m sure this was helped by the fact it wasn’t on piano or harpsichord.

Daniel Sullivan doesn’t observe all the repeats, which is sometimes a shame as I wanted to hear a particularly interesting piece of part-writing transcription again (as for example when the pedals and 16’ stop helped mark out some of the virtuosic hands-crossing variation). Tempi err on the side of romantic: that is, slow variations are rather lugubrious and quicker variations fly by, and yet the rubato he uses manages to allow every variation to flow with space and time to survey the detail.

In the same way that I enjoy virtuosic 19th century piano transcriptions of Bach, I found this fun and extremely well played, but revealing more about the player than Bach himself.

Steven Devine