Three Stradivaris and a new arrangement of this dazzling music

Trio Zimmermann: Bach

Trio Zimmermann: Bach

The Strad Issue: August 2019 
Description: Three Stradivaris and a new arrangement of this dazzling music

Musicians: Trio Zimmermann

Works: BACH Goldberg Variations BWV988

Catalogue Number: BIS 2347 (hybrid SACD/CD)

In a work such as the Goldberg Variations, it is inevitable that while the theme itself benefits immeasurably from a gentle, radiant cantabile, others correspond more intimately with the harpsichord’s keyboard proclivities. The challenge here is how to reappropriate Bach’s intentions in terms of the standard string trio. In his famous 1985 arrangement Dmitry Sitkovetsky reimagined the work in terms of its chamber music potential (complete with pizzicati in variation 19), the effect created by Trio Zimmermann (playing arco throughout) is closer to the string quartet, solo winds and keyboards transcription of The Art of Fugue by Neville Marriner and Andrew Davis.

That said, whereas that 1974 recording is played with clear-focused restraint, the Zimmermann enters into the fray with alacrity, shaping the music with the phrasal sensitivity and heightened articulation of an expert period-instrument ensemble. Perfectly matched – all three instruments are Stradivaris – and immaculately balanced in a lively yet radiant acoustic (the SACD surround track is especially beguiling), the finest compliment that one can pay this captivating account is that not for one moment does one feel that one is listening to a transcription. The ensemble’s declared intention was an ‘unveiling’ of Bach’s masterpiece – the result is a triumph of combined technical ingenuity and musical insight.