Edith Picht-Axenfeld

Bach: Goldberg Variations

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Edith Picht-Axenfeld began her performing career in 1935, and she was one of the early advocates of playing the music of J.S. Bach on harpsichord, breaking with the Romantic practice of playing it in octave-reinforced arrangements for piano. This Camerata recording of the Goldberg Variations, the Italian Concerto, and the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue dates from 1983, when she was approaching 70, yet her playing is quite vigorous and controlled, if somewhat rigorous and rhythmically stiff by inclination or aesthetic. The sound quality is quite clean, so the different tone colors of the instrument are easy to hear, and the subtlety of Picht-Axenfeld's interpretations comes through in the almost noiseless environment. All the same, in a market glutted with Goldberg Variations, this vintage performance is likely to be passed over in favor of later recordings with superior reproduction and by musicians with better name recognition. But this album is worth hearing in its own right, as well as to learn more of this increasingly neglected modern pioneer of the harpsichord.

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