Bach: Goldberg Variations

SELDOM SENE Recorder Quintet
75:00
Brilliant Classics 95591

This CD arrived in Huntingdon when I was working at Clifford Bartlett’s house. Clifford has been suffering from Alzheimer’s for a couple of years now and, although he still enjoys sitting at his organ sight-reading music, his enjoyment of music has become more restricted; he tends to listen by choice to Vaughan Williams symphonies, resents the fact that BBC Radio 3 play Bach every morning as he is about to get up, and anything unfamiliar is considered “silly”. One thing is not changed: his absolute aversion to recorders! So, when he went to throw this in the bin (!), I decided to rescue it and dupe him into listening to it during one of our many daily car journeys. Suffice to say that the five ladies of Seldom Sene – as I had imagined – overcame his prejudice (both against Bach and the recorder) with their stylish arrangements of this most re-scored piece from the BWV, not to mention their breath-taking performances on no fewer than 21 instruments (right down to one they had CrowdFunded). There is something about involving human breath in the performance of such music that shapes and informs the lines in a way that keyboard instruments and even stringed arrangements would do well to emulate. This is a superb disc that I have often listened to, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who is a fan (or, indeed, not a fan!) of recorders or the Goldbergs.

Brian Clark