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Goldberg Variation (Amati String Trio) Import

4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Conductor: Various
  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Audio CD (20 Oct. 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Brilliant Classics
  • ASIN: B000076I28
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 751,794 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gabriel M. Aguirre on 11 July 2011
Format: Audio CD
I have various versions of the Goldberg Variations recordings: ranging from both Glenn Gould's recordings to real unknowns, piano, guitar, string trios, harpsichord. Like the reviewer before me, I don't know what the first reviewer was hoping for, and found it amusing to read "famous interpretations by Glenn Gould" and "played the right baroque way" jotted down on the same paragraph.

This recording is as enjoyable to listen to as Glenn Gould's back in the late 50's: their approach on "smoothing-out" ornaments and doting it with a regal fluidity and Neoclassical sensibility is indeed a break from the rigidity and anxiety often permeating most of the Goldberg Variations recordings. Schmid's edition thus read: "(...) Composed for connoisseurs, for the refreshment of their spirits (...)" This recording accomplishes this, in every track, but specially on Variations 13 and 16.

Ironically for a Baroque composition, this performance is balanced, and perhaps this lovely point gets lost on the purists. Gould certainly ruffled --and still does-- their feathers, and Amati String Trio's very Neoclassical (yet while adding some very Baroque counterweights in later tracks) approach to a Baroque jewel may not be an exception.

Their level of musicianship and performance skill makes for a very satisfying recording: it can be engaging on so many levels, as it's relaxing and flawless that the general public can appreciate it, yet permeated with lovely cross-stylistic knit-work which should be picked up by those not only knowledgeable of various recordings, but of actual hands-on performance. All of this would be lost on those comparing against the hard cold ink on a partition.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Ferngrove TOP 500 REVIEWER on 11 Feb. 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Beautiful arrangement, beautifully played and beautifully recorded. I'm not sure what the other reviewer was hoping for in order to make these more imaginative. They are entirely baroque in feel. No deep meanings, no grand gestures, just music that unfolds in the mind and the heart, with marvellous regularity but ceaseless variety. Like so much of Bach's music, the Goldberg Variations are sufficiently absolute that they can be transcribed for other instruments and remain quintessentially the same, yet with a revelatory difference. These are the Goldberg Variations, plain and simple, except arranged for strings. The pleasure I get from them is the same as I get from Gould's piano version, but modified by the particular inflections and expressions made available by the string medium. In fact, it's quite a relief to have the option of not having to actively filter out the muffled howling of Gould's self accompaniment. One really can kick back and relax with these, maybe even get some sleep, as was their intended purpose.
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By Ralph Moore TOP 50 REVIEWER on 27 May 2015
Format: Audio CD
Despite admiring its striking presentation, I was instantly irritated by this Capriccio release when I found that no overall timing was provided for the "Goldberg Variations"; why not? A few minutes poring over the miniscule typeface with a calculator provided me a figure of 55:56.

While knowing Barto's reputation for controversial interpretations, I much enjoyed his innovative recording of Rameau's piano music, "A Basket of Wild Strawberries", while nonetheless acknowledging that its freedom would not appeal to more traditional, conservative tastes; this recording, however, is something else again. The important thing to note here - and it is indicated in minuscule type on the back cover - is that Barto plays the edition by Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) which is really a revision so radical that modern listeners would hardly recognise it as an edition as such but more of a free re-write. The mannered hesitations and arbitrarily applied rubato immediately apparent in the opening aria set off alarm bells and they set the pattern for Barto's reproduction of Busoni's intentions throughout. I say "throughout", but in truth my patience was so sorely taxed ten after fifteen minutes of his shenanigans that I had completely lost interest and broke one of my cardinal reviewing rules of listening to a recording several times before converting my thoughts into written words and I have no desire to listen to this version again.

I can hear no musical rationale or internal logic to Barto's constant pulling about of tempi combined with a peculiarity in the dynamics arising from his sudden, unaccountable diminutions in volume. There is little point in my citing specific examples of Barto's manner as it is consistent through all thirty-two tracks.
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Format: Audio CD
Perhaps ten different versions of the Goldberg variations stroll on my shelves. Beginning with the famous interpretations by Glenn Gould in 1955 and 1982, via a 2 guitars remarkable adaptation by Kurt Rordamer, and more. I was keen on having a strings recording, and was expecting the same thrill that I feel when listening to the violin concertos, when they are played the right baroque way. I was a bit disappointed. Keeping the exact melodic and counterpoint schemes, they should have adopted a more cliff like style, more abrupt, to highlight the possibilities of their instruments when they express baroque vivacity. These 32 pieces are too listened to everywhere to simply be played following the partition. Some imagination, and creativity are compulsory. Next time?
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A real homage to Bach 21 Mar. 2013
By Samuel Heifetz - Published on
I have heard several different versions of "Goldberg Variations," including those by Glenn Gould (1955 &1981), Murray Perahia, Rosalyn Tureck, Keith Jarrett, even Jacques Loussier and Uri Caine. Mr. Shemer's recording does not shy in comparison (even to Gould's, and with full consideration of the difference between piano and harpsichord). I would say to achieve a real level of emotional depth on the harpsichord is much more challenging, and Mr. Shemer is up to that challenge. His interpretation is both esoteric and euphoric. Mr. Shemer creates something that is both entirely his own and a real homage to Bach. Bravo
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Glorious Golden Goldberg 5 Aug. 2013
By More reviews - Published on
This a gorgeous version of this difficult and, in my opinion, normally elusive piece. Shemer makes the harpsichord sing, dance, laugh, cry and meditate. Having his instrument tuned to A=392 and recorded in a church certainly helps the contemplative aspect of this work, and the sound is rich and never metallic, as with many versions. If ever there was a case for throwing piano versions into the bin of history, Shemer is your best advocate. He manages to keep the music flowing, both within each variation and between variations, and he makes his musical points in a clear convincing way, unhampered by mannerisms and the awful swaying about that make some versions feel like they were recorded in a raft on the stormy seas; and yet it is subtle and fluid at the same time.
I hope we hear more from this incredible artist soon!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
most thoughtful delicate playing 18 May 2013
By Norma Bar Moshe - Published on
Bach: Goldberg Variations

David Shemer's version of the Goldberg variations is a beautiful one. His playing is delicate, full of colors and nuances, yet powerful and impressive. He brings out a Bach of humor, of pain, of winks and thoughtfulness, and does this in an elegant touch with the most beautiful sound of the harpsichord. I heard his recording many times and never got tired of it, I keep finding in it more ideas and beautiful corners. I very much recommend this recording!
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A digital CD resolution recording, sold as a 'SACD' 23 Mar. 2013
By Colin Rose - Published on
Format: Audio CD

I am a Gould fan, I have essentially all his recordings, and I particularly obsess over the 1981 Goldberg CD which remains one of my core reference CDs. When I buy hi-fi, I turn up with the 1981 CD. When I buy a car and want to listen to the audio, I turn up with the 1981 CD ... .

The 1981 CD was produced in DDD ... it is one of the earliest digital recordings ... at a time when the digital studio masters were at no higher resolution than the CD format itself. The recording was most likely done at 14 or 16 bits, at 44.1KHz. If so, there is nothing to be gained by transferring a DDD studio master that is no better than CD resolution onto SACD. The best you can ever do is the quality of the source file, and if that is already digital and no better resolution than redbook itself, than moving it onto SACD, or Bluray or onto the moon can only ever, at best, yield you what you started with. The whole point of SACD is to use studio masters that exist in higher resolution than the redbook format allows: placing onto redbook causes information loss, but placing onto SACD does not.

The SACD version of this disc has basically sold out in the West, but I managed to source a copy from Japan. Upon playing it, my almost immediate reaction was that it sounded MORE quantised ... MORE digital .... than my original 1981 DDD CD ... not less so. This led to bouts of intense head scratching and some detective work. The puzzle unravels so ...

The Three Versions

This wonderful recording from 1981 now exists in 3 versions:

A. 1981: The original 1981 DDD recording on CD
B. 1999: The SACD version - mastered from what?
C. 2002: The "A State of Wonder" redbook re-release version - produced from the 'safety net' analogue masters.

The Analogue Masters: abracadabra

In the technical notes to the 2002 "A State of Wonder" re-release of the 1981 recording on CD, the re-issue producer, Luise de la Fuente, explains the existence of a 1981 analogue master, in addition to the 1981 digital master. The producer writes:


"Digital technology was in its infancy in 1981, when Gould recorded Bach's Goldberg variations for a second time. ... digital technology delivered a very clean, quiet sound - free of tape hiss and LP surface noise - but it was also brittle, compressed, and not quite 'musical' to many listeners' ears. But digital technology was new in 1981 so everyone wanted to use it - including Glenn Gould, a known technology aficionado. Fortunately, as a precaution, most records were recorded simultaneously onto high-output analogue tape; and in 1981 professional analogue technology was at its peak. With properly aligned machines and perfectly calibrated Dolby units, analogue's fidelity was far superior to anything digital had to offer.
While Steve Berkowitz, Tim Page, Richard King, Andreas Meyer and I were auditioning the session tapes for this package - listening to out-takes that could be interesting to include - we used the analogue reels for their easy handling. Soon after this process began it became apparent to us all - the analogue tapes sounded far superior to the digital tapes. A note-for-note analogue vs. digital comparison test ensued and, it was unanimously agreed that sure enough, the analogue tapes sounded 'better' - more natural and musical. And we knew we had to use these never-before-heard analogue tapes for this special release.
Our process included converting the analogue tapes to state-of-the-art Sony Direct Stream Digital (DSD) drives and then painstakingly editing them, using Gould's actual session scores and notes ....The real challenge came in getting all of this great sound onto a 16-bit, 44.1 KHz compact disc."


So what is this 1999 SACD produced from?

The first clue is that the SACD sounds more quantised than the original 1981 CD, rather than less: that suggested to me that it was produced from the digital masters ... which would be an entirely pointless exercise that can only add digital mess.

The second clue is that the SACD was produced in 1999, whereas the quote above alludes that the analogue tapes were only re-'discovered' some years later, in perhaps 2001, for the 2002 "State of Wonder" re-issue.

The third clue is from the track timings which vary slightly:

Track 16
A: 1981 DDD: 5min02secs
B: 1999 SACD: 5min02secs
C: 2002 Analog master: 5min00

Track 25
A: 1981 DDD: 1min44secs
B: 1999 SACD: 1min44secs
C: 2002 Analog master: 1min42

In all cases, the SACD track times match the original DDD recording ... not the State of Wonder analog master track times.

Summary: it seems apparent that this SACD was produced from the 1981 digital master. Given that that recording would be lower-res than CD itself, or little different, this would appear to be an entirely pointless exercise.


I find that the SACD version is more distinct than the 1981 DDD version. Gould's singing is much more noticeable on the SACD, and the various parts/voices are clearer ... but I find the sound to be ... unmistakably ... harsher and more 'quantised' than the DDD version. It is almost as though someone has taken a photographic image, and then adjusted the sharpness on the image ... things are more distinct, but the image is more coarse. And that coarseness is uneven and, to my mind, unpleasant.

I find the old 1981 DDD version is smoother, more analogue sounding, more musical.
And yes - I think the engineers are probably correct: the 2002 version (even when on plain CD, from the analogue master) is even nicer than the 1981 DDD version: smoother again, less harsh, but with perhaps an unfortunate slight loss of dynamic contrast.

If I had to choose one version, I think my first preference would be the "State of Wonder" version, followed closely by the original 1981 DDD version.

As for the SACD ... I think it is everything it is meant to not be: instead of being more natural, it is less natural. Instead of being smooth, it is quantised and discrete. I find it unpleasant. It has no logical rationale for its existence. The fact that it has sold out, and is listed second-hand for high prices, is completely separate. This emperor hath no clothes. If you want the best Gould Goldberg, I am sorry - but it is not the SACD version.

The Best Possible World

Of course, in an ideal world, Sony would take the DSD master of the analogue tapes which they created in 2002 for a "State of Wonder" and put THAT onto SACD ... and that must be the best we can do. THAT has purpose. THAT has meaning. By contrast, what has been produced is almost a con ... it makes no sense, and it is worse than the original. Tra la la. For that, I give the sonics 1 star: the sound is not that bad in any absolute sense, but the sonics deserve 1 star for a flawed and pointless implementation.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A True Masterwork ! 8 Dec. 2012
By H.Permont - Published on
David Shemer's execution of the Goldberg Variations is, perhaps THE BEST PERFORMANCE OF THIS WORK that I know of. His deep understanding of the style, its texture, its voice leading, and above all - the affects - results in a brilliant execution, expressive and yet free of any mannerism that we very often hear in baroque performances. In addition, the CD is masterly recorded, with a clear, crisp sound. David Shemer is a great master of the harpsichord and baroque music in general.

Absolutely a masterpiece of performance and recording. Second to none ! It should be in every music lover's library !
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