Bach's Goldberg Variations for harpsichord, BWV 988, have been arranged for a great variety of instruments and instrumental combinations, so a string orchestra wouldn't seem much of a stretch. Russian violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky, responsible for a variety of intriguing string arrangements of music by Bach and others, made the present version in the mid-1980s after first creating a version for string trio. Responses to his arrangement are likely to be highly individual, but it may be that the string trio version is preferable. The orchestral work is varied and heavily ornamented, in a way inspired, annotator Jo Kirkbride points out, by the classic performances of Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. This is all to the good, but Sitkovetsky's varied ensemble sizes and tracing of Bach's counterpoint sometimes work at cross purposes with the Goldbergs' intricate architecture. The canons, appearing every third variation, are treated differently every time pizzicati are added in variation 19, and in general the arrangement seems to take Bach as a starting point for further creative activity, a particularly hazardous course with this composer. By the end some may feel as though they've wandered into a Bach compositional exercise by Max Reger or one of his ilk. None of this is to say that the Britten Sinfonia under Thomas Gould does not realize this rather garish concept well, although Harmonia Mundi's church sound is a bit bracing. Recommended to those who enjoy experimental Bach treatments.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Goldberg Variations, BWV 988|