Maggie Cole is a wonderful harpsichordist, and her performance here deserves five stars, no doubt about it. Her "Goldberg Variations" are lovely, and the complementary disc with the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue and several other pieces, including the Italian Concerto, are also very well-played. So why only four stars this time round? I think the following reasons are enough:
1. The stark difference in sound between the harpsichords on both CDs. Maggie Cole plays the shorter Bach pieces on a historical insrument from the year 1610 that would have been an antique in Bach's time: and that is just what it sounds like, very metallic and with lots of mechanical noise. This is very different from the beautiful copy of a French mid-eighteenth century instrument she chooses for the Goldbergs and needs some getting used to. In general, I wonder why so many harpsichordists prefer not to play Bach on German or Saxon instruments from the first half of the eighteenth century?
2. The tracks on the Goldberg CD have not been properly indexed, they jump too late while playing, making it impossible to program any individual numbers correctly. This is just pure carelessness on the part of Virgin Classics.
3. The accompanying documentation, if such one may call it, is far too cursory and contains much too little information to be of any real use.