Goldberg: Chamber Music / Musica Alta Ripa

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GOLDBERG Trio Sonatas: in a; in C; in B?; in g; in f. Sonata a quatro in c. Polonaises: in F; in d; in E?;...

GOLDBERG Trio Sonatas: in a; in C; in B?; in g; in f. Sonata a quatro in c. Polonaises: in F; in d; in E?; in c; in G; in C Musica Alta Ripa (period instruments) MDG 3090709 (76:50)

Though he lived for only 29 years, Johann Gottleib Goldberg (1727–1756) has been guaranteed a niche in the annals of music, for it was for him that Sebastian Bach wrote his famous Aria with Thirty Variations which posterity has come to know as the Goldberg Variations . The story of their creation has been recounted by Bach’s biographer, Johann Nikolaus Forkel, and the following excerpt is taken from Ralph Kirkpatrick’s edition of the score:

Once the Count mentioned in Bach’s presence that he would like to have some clavier pieces for Goldberg, which should be of such a smooth and somewhat lively character that he might be a little cheered up by them in his sleepless nights. Bach thought himself best able to fulfill this wish by means of variations, the writing of which he had until then considered an ungrateful task on account of the repeatedly similar harmonic foundation.

But since at this time all his works were already models of art, such also these variations became under his hand. Yet he produced only a single work of this kind. Thereafter the Count always called them his variations. He never tired of them . . .

Apparently Herr Goldberg was not only a brilliantly gifted harpsichordist, but also an excellent composer. Our Editor sent me a disc of Goldberg’s harpsichord concertos with which I was favorably impressed (see Fanfare 30:2), and now I have this CD of some of Goldberg’s chamber music. Very little of Goldberg’s music has survived; many of the compositions that he failed to destroy didn’t survive the Allied bombing of Dresden. But as always, there are exceptions as this MDG compact disc illustrates. Goldberg’s surviving manuscripts were thought to be limited to two harpsichord concertos, two cantatas, the sonatas recorded here, and several harpsichord pieces, but more recently, another trio sonata turned up that might be the missing one advertised in a 1763 publication by Breitkopf. The jury remains out on the authenticity of this work.

Bach scholar Peter Wollny speaks of “powerful and profound harmonies and at times almost gloomy ones” that—when combined with Goldberg’s undisputed contrapuntal mastery—give us chamber music of almost unprecedented craft for a composer so young. The sonatas are indeed impressive; they augur well for Goldberg’s contemporary reputation and also warrant examination by other early music ensembles. Structurally, all but one of the sonatas resemble the Corellian sonata da chiesa , while the brief Polonaises­ for harpsichord—taken from a collection of 24 (one in each key)—are apparently from Goldberg’s years as a student of W. F. Bach in Dresden. The cyclical character of the collection reflects the influence of J. S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier.

Musica Alta Ripa ( alta ripa means “high bank or cliff” in Italian) is a well-credentialed and established ensemble. Founded in 1984 and based in Hanover, the home of the musicians, Musica Alta Ripa has gone on “to enjoy extraordinary success in its numerous concerts and in collaboration with various (European) radio networks.” Their playing is poised, erudite, and fluent. Stylistic conventions of the period are observed, but never is sound musicianship abandoned. The music is appropriately nuanced and weighted with emotion, but never overblown where it would become a parody of itself. True Baroque music-lovers shouldn’t have a problem finding space on their shelves for this one.

FANFARE: Michael Carter

Product Description:

  • Release Date: February 01, 1997

  • UPC: 760623070926

  • Catalog Number: 3090709-2

  • Label: MDG

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Johann Goldberg

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Musica Alta Ripa

  • Performer: Bernward Lohr