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American Record Guide: (11/2019) 
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Reviewer: John Dutterer

Proclaiming in the liner notes that this is “neither an arrangement nor a transcription, but basically an unveiling of Bach’s score”, Trio Zimmermann sets the bar absurdly high. Although they are playing period instruments, these gentlemen have a strong leaning in the direction of the 20th Century, and this recording loses its footing just a bit. The playing is inspired, the sparkle is there; but given how familiar this piece is, it can only come across as a novelty in this format. With the lush string sound and the absence of out-and-out baroque (or even romantic) mannerisms, this could almost pass for a composition of the classical era. But what’s the point?


I reviewed the Ardeo Quartet’s lengthy account of this piece (S/O 2018), finding it intermittently interesting—and so is this. Even in the hands of lesser pianists, the solid architecture of the Goldberg Variations shines through. Adding instruments is a bit like asking a marathon runner to put on 25 pounds “just out of curiosity”.

Not to be too harsh on Trio Zimmermann, the artists’ approach is painstaking and respectful; this is not a fantasia on Bach. The SACD sound quality is of course terrific. Honestly, though, it might have made more sense to adapt a few movements and use them as encores.

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