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Track(s) taken from CKD356

Sarabande con partite in C, BWV990


Matthew Halls (harpsichord)
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Studio Master:
Studio Master:
Recording details: July 2007
St Silas the Martyr, Kentish Town, London, United Kingdom
Produced by François Eckert
Engineered by François Eckert
Release date: February 2010
Total duration: 22 minutes 4 seconds


'I heard Halls play the Goldbergs live some two years ago and I remember being beguiled by the lack of affectation or ostentation to a performance in which the entire work appeared to gradually and organically unfold … Halls provides his own scholarly and eminently readable programme notes, a model of their kind and fantastically thorough. Linn has done him justice with a finaly balanced recording which avoids the slightly oppressive closeness of Staier's account. Highly recommended' (International Record Review)» More

'Let me start off by saying that this might be the best-sounding plucked-string version of this piece I have ever heard … the Goldbergs are the main billing, and for the most part Halls gives us a very illuminating reading … a fine reading of some standing, and with the great sound to boot. I am sure it will be getting a lot of play time at my place' (Audiophile Audition, USA)» More

'Of recent years the best recordings of the Goldberg Variations have been on the piano—not least from Angela Hewitt. Matthew Halls, now better known as the director of the former King's Consort, bucks the trend by offering the music on a 2-manual harpsichord … having greatly appreciated Halls's recent recording of Handel's Parnasso in Festa I had high expectations of his Bach. I was not disappointed' (MusicWeb International)» More
Though listed both in volume 42 of the Gesamtausgabe der Bachgesellschaft and in Roitzch’s supplement to the Peters edition of Bach’s keyboard works (revised in 1904 by Max Seiffert), the authorship of the Sarabande con partite, BWV990, a charmingly beautiful set of variations upon a Sarabande, has been hotly contested. Considerable concern has been voiced that the form and musical style of the work differ from other Bachian models, leading to speculation that it may have been composed by any number of slightly lesser-known North German composers. Although two sources explicitly attribute this piece to Johann Sebastian (two manuscripts bear the ascription “Da mio J S Bach”), they cannot be entirely trusted since all of the available sources derive from an unknown original source.

Weighing up all the evidence it seems impossible to assert with any real confidence that Johann Sebastian was the author of this work. However, if another source should come to light in the future, strengthening the association, it would be in many ways immensely satisfying as it would provide us with an important precedent for the ‘Goldberg Variations’. For here, as in BWV998, is an ingenious set of variations upon the underlying harmonic structure of a simple Sarabande. Some have tried to suggest that the piece was composed in the mid-seventeenth century (Eichberg 1975), but, given the complexity of the figuration and at times highly developed harmonic idiom in some of the more expressive movements, a later date would seem more appropriate. Whatever the case, this is a superbly attractive set of variations upon the most simple and beautiful of dance-inspired themes—without doubt the work of a highly skilled composer and absolutely worthy of its current (albeit peripheral) status in Bach’s keyboard oeuvre.

One unusual feature of the variation set is the inclusion of a suite at the end, occupying the final four partitas (numbers XIII-XVI). After the seemingly climactic fanfare-like partita XII this comes as something of a surprise and marks a significant departure from the norm compared with mainstream developments in the variation tradition of the early eighteenth century. However, the inclusion of the four dance movements (Allemanda, Courante, Aria Variata and Giguetta) lends the work a certain charm and there is something recognisably conclusive about the rustic and up-beat gigue which brings the work to a close. The use of delicate style brisé textures throughout leaves little doubt that these variations were conceived for the harpsichord rather than the organ.

from notes by Matthew Halls © 2009

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