This was the second release by Italian pianist Beatrice Rana, who was in her early twenties when she recorded it in Berlin in 2016. A prodigy who was taking home top prizes as a high school student, Rana certainly gave herself the chance to fail spectacularly when she decided to record the Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, of Bach, a gigantic work susceptible to multiple interpretations that poses challenges in terms of technical skill, cohesiveness, and overall spiritual grasp. Instead, Rana notches a substantial success and bears out the predictions of those who have been touting her as a major star. She thinks out her own interpretation of the work and carries it through, not relying on established schools. Rana overlays her own division upon the work's tripartite structure (with sets of three variations each capped by a canon), juxtaposing rhythmically free slower movements (which she makes quite expressive without having to take the big ones too slowly) with crisp, tough, contrapuntal movements that approach Glenn Gould territory. Sample the eighth variation for an idea of the Chopinesque treatment Rana gives the slower variations, bringing out the considerable chromaticism in the part-writing and generally expanding the scope of the work as a whole. The set follows a clear overall trajectory (this is often the bugaboo for pianists who take it on too early), and the reprise of the "Aria" at the end seems to take on a meditative, retrospective quality shaped by everything the theme has been through. Again, it hardly sounds like the work of a youthful pianist, and the entire performance is absorbing. Rana receives excellent support from Warner Brothers' engineering staff, working at Berlin's Teldex studios.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Goldberg Variations, BWV 988|