Goldberg Variations

Evgeni Koroliov (piano)

Medici Arts 2057238 (NTSC system;

dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format) 88 mins

BBC Music Direct


Originally from Moscow, this German pianist is a cult, and watching his imposing recital of Bach's largest single keyboard work one can understand why.

He plays with a quiet rapture, seemingly oblivious of the concert hall surroundings and the audience, whom we see and hear only when they applaud at the end.


He takes every repeat of every variation, though within the repeats there are further small variations in ornament, and so this clock in as possibly the longest of all accounts.

It never seems slow, except perhaps in No. 25, which lasts for over ten minutes. But the concentration that Koroliov brings to the work is something he enforces on the listener, so that one is held tightly in Bach's grip after the theme has been played - the very opening is the only slightly perfunctory element in the performance. He uses the full resources of his magnificent Steinway, and the spontaneity with which he moves from the lightest of touches to grand sonorities is one of the many fascinating aspects of this riveting performance.

Even so, Andrea Bacchetti, the young Italian who played the work on DVD (Arthaus) a couple of years ago, is even more hypnotic, and I would advise anyone who listens to one of these discs to invest in the other, too, for there is no work that is less exhaustible than this.

Michael Tanner