Listening to Burkard Schliessmann's Goldberg Variations is a little like
eating tuna tartare for the first time after years of eating fish sticks.
It's not that Schliessmann plays the piece better than anyone else. Glenn
Gould's second recording on Sony (Mar/Apr 2004) and Murray Perahia's reading
for the same label (Jan/Feb 2001) are both wonderful, too. But
Schliessmann's performance is very, very different and, in a way, more
exalted than either of his esteemed colleagues. First, he takes every repeat
and often chooses more expansive tempos for the pieces. As a result, the
dramatic arc of the Goldbergs has more definition and significance; I'm now
convinced that it's absolutely essential to play this piece with all the
repeats. Second, Schliessmann is a little freer with tempo than I'm used to.
Maybe sometimes he's a little too free, for example when he rushes the
downbeat after a trill in Variation 14; still, the phrasing and expression
become more varied, more human, than in performances with a stricter beat.
And finally the sound of the piano is gorgeous: it's not percussive at all;
it's warm and inviting. (I imagine it sounds even better in an SACD player.)
Of many outstanding variations I could mention, I remember in particular
the elegant, French-style gigue tempo he takes for Variation 7, the
extremely vocal Variation 9, the fascinating subtlety of voicing in
Variation 8, the uncomplicated joy in Variation 24, and the understated, con
amore Variation 30 (the quodlibet). ... Schliessmann's overall conception
and realization of Bach's last great keyboard work has so much distinction