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CHAN 0780
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CHAN 0780

Bach: 'Goldberg' Variations, BWV 988

The Classical Shop
release date: June 2011

Originally recorded in 2010


Steven Devine



Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk


Rachel Smith


Jonathan Cooper

Record Label



Early Music

Total Time - 79:33
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Aria mit verschiedenen Veranderungen, BWV 988

  'Goldberg' Variations  
  (Clavier-Übung IV)  
1 Aria 3:59
2 Variatio 1 a 1 Clav. 2:09
3 Variatio 2 a 1 Clav. 2:09
4 Variatio 3 a 1 Clav. Canone all'Unisuono 2:13
5 Variatio 4 a 1 Clav. 1:10
6 Variatio 5 a 1 ovvero 2 Clav. 2:04
7 Variatio 6 a 1 Clav. Canone all Seconda 1:39
8 Variatio 7 a 1 ovvero 2 Clav. al tempo di Giga 1:45
9 Variatio 8 a 2 Clav. 2:25
10 Variatio 9 a 1 Clav. Canone alla Terza 1:47
11 Variatio 10 a 1 Clav. Fughetta 1:35
12 Variatio 11 a 2 Clav. 2:05
13 Variatio 12 Canone alla Quarta 3:04
14 Variatio 13 a 2 Clav. 4:40
15 Variatio 14 a 2 Clav. 2:18
16 Variatio 15 a 1 Clav. Canone all Quinta. Andante 3:45
17 Variatio 16 a 1 Clav. Ouverture 2:47
18 Variatio 17 a 2 Clav. 2:38
19 Variatio 18 a 1 Clav. Canone all Sesta 1:30
20 Variatio 19 a 1 Clav. 1:11
21 Variatio 20 a 2 Clav. 2:33
22 Variatio 21 Canone all Settima 2:31
23 Variatio 22 a 1 Clav. Alla breve 1:31
24 Variatio 23 a 2 Clav. 2:27
25 Variatio 24 a 1 Clav. Canone all'Ottava 3:08
26 Variatio 25 a 2 Clav. Adagio 6:53
27 Variatio 26 a 2 Clav. 2:31
28 Variatio 27 a 2 Clav. Canone all Nona 2:06
29 Variatio 28 a 2 Clav. 2:55
30 Variatio 29 a 1 ovvero 2 Clav. 2:25
31 Variatio 30 a 1 Clav. Quodlibet 1:37
32 Aria da capo e fine 2:03
 Steven Devine harpsichord
  1-3 June 2010  

The ‘Goldberg’ Variations by Bach are considered among the most commanding and inspired sets of variations of any period, and one of the most ambitious compositions ever written for harpsichord.

They are performed here by Steven Devine on a double-manual harpsichord by Colin Booth (2000) after Fleischer (1710). The co-director of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Devine also plays the harpsichord with The Gonzaga Band and London Baroque, and has been performing Bach’s Variations extensively in the UK.
The ‘Goldberg’ Variations begin with a highly embellished but unpretentious Aria, around which Bach builds a series of thirty variations that range from the high-spirited to the introspective. The epic scope of this work is not only a consequence of its length, but also of the enormous variety that is presented here – in terms of both style and mood – and of the way the whole piece is held together by the constant underlying theme of the opening Aria. The variations were very advanced for their time, looking forward to the much later ‘Diabelli’ Variations by Beethoven as well as the ‘Corelli’ Variations by Rachmaninoff.

The set of thirty variations was supposedly commissioned by Baron von Keiserling, the Russian ambassador to the Dresden court, to help him get through his many nights of insomnia, and named after the baron’s harpsichordist, who played them. However, as the set was published in 1741, and Goldberg was born in 1727, unless he was an exceptionally talented harpsichordist, the more likely explanation was that Bach wrote them for his son Wilhelm Friedemann to play, and perhaps donated a few to the young Goldberg.

Whatever the truth of its origins, there is no denying the exceptional excellence of the work. In the words of Steven Devine:  ‘This is a wonderful collection of dance movements, interspersed with passionate canons and virtuosic hand-crossings, all framed by a simple unpretentious Aria.’

"Performed on a double-manual instrument by Colin Booth (after a single-manual by Fleischer, 1710), the performer’s craft and flair affords the ‘Goldberg’s a sense of lyricism that is rarely heard. Most renowned for being the harpsichordist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Steven Devine’s weave of the contrapuntal lines accounts for some of this recording’s charm; in addition to his crisp ornamentation and variety of touch, this makes for truly addictive listening. The general pulse changes very little from movement to movement, but born out of this is a sense of organic progression that elegantly unifies the thirty variations and polar arias. It truly is a significant feat to have made such a unique recording given that this work has been so widely recorded. Coupled with precise sleeve notes, this is the scholars’ choice."

Musica Antiqua - Janauary 2012

"...The tone of the instrument is rich and clear, and the recording captures it well."

Katz - American Record Guide - November/December 2011


“... Steven Divine is an up-and-coming British harpsichord who makes his solo début with this recording... There is much to like in this new recording. Devine clearly has the requisite technique and musicality for a work of this magnitude. His tempos fit the consensus very neatly; no movement is misjudged or out of place...”

Christopher Brodersen – Fanfare – November/December 2011

"Steven Devine’s sense of phrasing is finely honed throughout, helped by intelligent tempi ... Devine makes this work his own with additional playful decorations ... This is a highly recommendable performance."

Katharine May - Early Music Today - September/October 2011

“Devine’s harpsichord Goldbergs can stand among the best in a crowded field.”

Phillip Kennicot – Gramophone – September 2011

“...Steve Devine’s recording of the Goldberg Variations is certainly amongst the best, making all of the crucial musical points very effectively and with plenty of expressive breathing room. There’s nothing stodgy about his playing, but neither is it lightweight and ephemeral... give this recording a try – you certainly won’t be disappointed."

Dominy Clements – – August 2011

               “Album of the Week”
“...he [Devine] exercises restraint, but his muscular style is remarkably expressive.”

Michael Church – The Independent – 16 July 2011

“...this account by Steven Devine ... is scrupulous ... his playing is adroit and his attention to every detail of the ornamentation punctilious... “ 

Andrew Clements – The Guardian – 15 July 2011

“...Highly recommended.”

Stephen Pritchard – The Observer – 12 June 2011

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