This 20-disc box set has been entertaining me for several months. Dutch pianist Ivo Janssen set up his own record label to distribute his 1997 Goldberg Variations, recorded on the hoof over two days in Haarlem. Its success prompted him to tackle Bach’s complete keyboard output. And there’s a sense of fly-by-night impetuosity about some of these performances, all taped in the same venue with the same producer, the cycle finally finished in 2009.
Wanda Landowska brought the Goldbergs out of hiding on the harpsichord in the '40s and Glenn Gould made them a bonafide hit on the piano in the '50s, opening the floodgates for keyboardists of all stripes. So, in one of his earlier recorded voyages into the classical world, Keith Jarrett is up against an imposing legacy as he tackles what has become the most famous set of variations in Western music. First, he chooses to play them on a double-manual harpsichord – which makes the task somewhat easier, avoiding the finger-tangling cross hand difficulties that can trip up a piano performance.