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As Richard Boothby’s liner note reminds us, Bach’s Goldberg Variations are probably most familiar to us all not in their original scoring for a double- manual harpsichord, but arranged for Glenn Gould’s 1956 recording. Since then, arrangements have emerged in all musical shapes and sizes; Boothby’s own, for six-strong viol consort Fretwork, must surely rank among the best. With the individual string voices bringing both a contrapuntal clarity and, perhaps more unexpectedly, a singing lyricism to Bach’s long lines, Fretwork’s textural variation matches the intricacy of Bach’s own thematic manipulations. The swinging legato waves of the ‘Canone al Unisone’ and limitless melodic arcs of the ‘Canone alla Seconda’ find their balance in the cheeky pizzicato accompaniment Variation 5 and Variation 20 and the chorale-like grandeur of the Quodlibet. Only occasionally (the helter-skelter fussiness of Variation 8 and tricky melodic figuration of Variation 14) does the music feel less than organic in Fretwork’s fine hands.

Alexandra Coghlan Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2011 - ©Rhinegold Publishing