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Johann Sebastian Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988
Monsoo Sohn (piano)

Korea-born, USA-based Monsoo Sohn was the First Laureate at the 2006 Honens International Piano Competition. As part of its career development activities, the competition has created its own CD label. This is Monsoo Sohn’s second recording for them, the first consisting of Liszt transcriptions.

Creating yet another recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations can almost be classed as an act of hubris as the work as been recorded scores of times and some of the renditions have entered the realm of legend (dare we mention Glenn Gould?)

It is great to see that “new“ pianists on the scene refuse to be intimidated by the scope and brilliance of their predecessors/competitors. It is also a pleasure to report that this recording can be classed as a definite success. Mr Sohn has performed the work a lot and the years of thought and practice have resulted in a performance with the requisite sparkle and dash, as well as thoughtful introspection. Each of the 32 movements is given its own individual treatment, while at the same time we are taken on a sonic journey through the inter-related architecture of the work. He performs the repeats with restrained decorations; the work clocks in at 75 minutes.

If you already have one or more Goldbergs, here is another one to consider. If the work is new to you, this is one gives a very nice introduction to it.

Honens, which is Calgary-based, records at the Banff Centre. This recording was the last to be produced by Andrew Raeburn (the CD’s dedicatee) who died (age 87) soon after it was completed in 2010. His long recording career, first in Britain and then in the USA, led to his stint at directing the Honens Competition from 1993 to 2004. The sound is comfortably “real” - i.e., that of hearing a piano in an excellent seat in a fine hall.

One note on the booklet notes: CD booklets are of necessity small. The booklets accompanying the Honens recordings have a certain distinguished look, but contain an excessive amount of blank space. The notes (in both English and French) are fine, but larger print would make for a more enjoyable read.

Michael Johnson




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