BBC Legends – Tatiana Nikolayeva [Goldberg Variations]

0 of 5 stars

Goldberg Variations, BWV988
Partita in G, BWV829 – Praeambulum
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring [transcribed]

Tatiana Nikolayeva (piano)

Recorded 10 November 1986 in St John’s, Smith Square, London

Reviewed by: Rob Pennock

Reviewed: November 2007
BBCL 4228-2
Duration: 78 minutes



Tatiana Nikolayeva came to prominence with the release on Hyperion of Shostakovich’s Preludes and Fugues and I have long-loved her complete Well-Tempered Clavier and Beethoven sonatas.

This Goldberg is a joy from beginning to end. Great Bach-playing must combine a sense of logical inevitability and progression with spirituality and humanity and Nikolayeva conveys all of these qualities with unerring command and ease. The performance glows. There are a couple of health warnings, which may be of interest to some over-sensitive souls. Technically the pianist was fallible – there are slips and occasionally less-than-even fingering. In the opening ‘Aria’, for example, the slow trills are ungainly and elsewhere there are several wrong notes. As Chris de Souza points out in his booklet note, Nikolayeva wouldn’t have been greatly bothered about authentic performing style and her use of all the pedals, rubato, dynamic and tempo variation, may have some shaking their heads. But for those who are more concerned about the music’s emotional content, these are plus factors.

The opening statement of the theme is grave; there is a ritardando at the end of each section and several slight tempo changes. More importantly the theme becomes a profound song, with golden tone and an indefinable sense of rightness. In Variation III there is a sense of conversation between the parts. Variation V dances beautifully with a witty left-hand and in Variation VIII the right-hand decoration is delightfully lucid. The Canon of Variation X is free and the following Fughetta very powerful. Once again, in Variation XIV there is a sense of conversation and superb, natural rubato. Variation XVI is Chopinesque, Variation XX delightfully sprung – and so it goes on. Every variation is alive and speaks. The sense of completeness and peace Nikolayeva conveys in the return of the ‘Aria’, to complete the work, is profound.

There are two encores, a powerful, animated version of the G major’s Partita’s ‘Praeambulum’ and a gorgeously slow, heart-easing version of the Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.

The sound is very good, if a little close, and there is some slight pitch waver. I can only suggest that you listen to these performances and discover what live and great music-making is about.

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