Angela Hewitt and the Goldbergs go back a long way; she first performed them at the age of 16. The Canadian pianist describes the set as 'a constant companion', and memorably recorded the work back in 1999. As with The Well-Tempered Clavier she returns for another bite of the cherry, and in almost every respect bar one, her second thoughts—entrusted to her beloved Fazioli piano—leave the earlier version eclipsed. It's not that she's no longer in awe of the piece, but seems more relaxed and the freedom translates into something utterly organic.
Sixteen year on, the fingers are as formidably on the ball as ever—capable of the most tender translucency, of staccato leaps that 'ping', and able to differentiate and characterise several voices simultaneously with jaw-dropping felicity. The variations flow one into another with a newfound inevitability; and if she's still inclined to launch Variation 29 as if it were announcing the onset of the Apocalypse, the French Ouverture has lost its analytical awkwardness of yore. The caveat? Recorded in a Berlin church, there's a resonant bloom that enhances the limpidity of the aria and more songful variations, but tends to distract in busier moments.