Brian Wilson
MusicWeb International
March 2010

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 and by including all the repeats, thereby making his recording too long for a single CD. In the latter respect, he has the field entirely to himself, as far as I am aware. I was not convinced by the recent Virgin 2-CD budget-price reissue of Bob van Asperen's performance of the Goldbergs; though I liked the Toccatas on the other CD, I felt that there was a need for a modern recording on the harpsichord to rival Trevor Pinnock.

Having greatly appreciated Halls's recent recording of Handel's Parnasso in Festa I had high expectations of his Bach. I was not disappointed. I just wonder whether 91 minutes is not a little too long for the average listener—we aren't all insomniacs, as the original recipient is supposed to have been. For that reason alone, I shall not be ditching my copy of the Pinnock. Bach scholars, on the other hand, will particularly welcome the ability to hear the work at its full length.

Linn's 24-bit recording is excellent and, being at 44.1kHz, will play on Squeezebox, but it does take up a great deal of space, at over 1.5GB. In whatever form you choose—mp3 and ‘ordinary' lossless are also available—an advantage of downloading is the ability to play the Goldbergs without break; on CD a change is required.