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JS Bach: Goldberg Variations, arranged for viol consort / Fretwork

Album Summary

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : Goldberg Variations, BWV 988
Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

The Goldberg Variations for harpsichord are a pinnacle of Bach's compositional output. Like many of Bach's works, it has been transcribed for many different solo instruments and instrumental combinations. Fretwork's version for viol consort is one of the most unusual, in that it looks backward in time instead of forward. Bach was essentially a conservative composer, well grounded in the styles and structures of the past. His fondness for the sound of the viola da gamba is well documented and it provides additional justification for re-projecting this masterpiece of counterpoint through the sound-lens of 'old fashioned' instruments.

"The Goldberg Variations are a pinnacle of Bach's art. Conceived for harpsichord, the work has been transcribed for quite different instruments... Richard Boothby's version for his own consort of viols, Fretwork, is arguably the most unusual, in that it opts for a soundworld that looks even further back in time. Part of the justification for such a setting must be Bach's own liking for viola da gamba, already then old-fashioned... Boothby's setting is dexterously divided between various combinations of the treble, tenor and bass viols, and he achieved some magical effects, notably... in variations of gossamer passagework." -The Guardian

"An unusually stately opening Aria begins a fascinating viol consort arrangement of this oft-recorded work. While fans of the young Gould and his fleeter stablemates should look elsewhere, this reviewer’s initial skepticism soon vanished. Cogent, moving and superbly recorded, it is perhaps a ‘meditation on’ rather than an ‘arrangement of’ the Goldbergs." -Classical Music Magazine

Gramophone Magazine
Boothy's transcriptions are an unusual yet fascinating advocacy for a consort of viols that Bach would have considered archaic... as the spirit of the music dictates, Fretwork produces playing of astonishing imagination... With such a feast on offer, harpsichords never crossed my heretical mind.

BBC Music Magazine
When [Boothby] simply transfers lines from harpsichord unaltered, it's particularly effective, clarifying the counterpoint... No one can be unaffected after experiencing these new perspectives.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Oxford Church, Suffolk, England (03/2011).


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Works Details

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : Goldberg Variations, BWV 988
  • Ensemble: Fretwork
  • Running Time: 83 min. 14 sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Written: 1741