Christine Schornsheim

Bach: Goldberg Variations
Buxtehude: La Capricciosa
(2 CDs in a jewel case)
Capriccio C5286

Christine Schornsheim has recorded the Goldberg Variations  before (in 1997) and more recently has become known for her complete Haydn and perhaps more as an exponent of the fortepiano and other late Baroque and Classical keyboard instruments. She is now professor of period keyboard instruments at the Munich academy, and is committed to teaching as well as playing.

She was persuaded to make a second recording say the liner notes by Christof Kern, whose workshop produced the harpsichord on which she plays in 2013. It is a double ‘after’ the Michael Mietke in Berlin dated to around 1710, (a maker from whom Bach is known to have secured an instrument for Köthen when he served there) and is extended to a full five octaves and strung with brass. It is a powerful instrument, and the frequent registration changes are made silently – presumably edited out.

This time Schornsheim prefaces the 32 Goldberg  variations with Buxtehude’s La Capricciosa, BuxWV 230, a set of 32 partitas on an Italianate-sounding Bergamesca  as his theme. In both sets, the technical challenges increase as the works progress, and in both cases the listener is left wondering if there is going to be any other possible invention left.

I have become used to other performers’ versions of the Buxtehude – notably Lars Ulrich Mortensen and Colin Booth, and I found Schornsheim’s Buxtehude less satisfying. She plays with an incredible fluency but constant registration changes and a pretty driven rhythmic style make it rather unyielding for my taste. But linking the two works is a fine idea. And I suspect she is more at home with her oft-performed Goldbergs. Here the rather more expansive music seems to breathe more freely, and the changes in registration more obvious: I have certainly enjoyed performances of the Goldbergs  on the organ occasionally.

The instrument is recorded pretty close, and her finger-work is fluent if just slightly mechanical. It certainly shows off Christof Kern’s instrument splendidly. It is tuned in a meantone tuning at 415 for the Buxtehude, and then in a version of Kirnberger III based on D for the Bach. If this was close to the sound that Bach favoured, then we owe Kern a debt.

David Stancliffe