Seldom Sene: a Goldberg mine

Seldom Sene: a Goldberg mine

Editor Fatima Lahham reviews Seldom Sene's latest release...

For their third album on Brilliant Classics, the recorder quintet Seldom Sene chose to record J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations BWV 988 in its entirety. The result is quite extraordinary. From a serene opening aria (that re-occurs at the end to close the set of variations), the recording dazzles and beguiles with the ingenious collection of variations that follow, inspired by the aria's bass line.

As a recorder player myself I was curious about how this music, so well-known as keyboard repertoire, would work on recorders. Perhaps bizarrely, I was immediately drawn to the very audible click of recorder keys from the second track (listen to the 11th variation for a noteworthy example), that somehow announces proudly that these instruments own this music - at least for the duration of the CD. Whether they are plumbing the depths of our ears or reaching vertiginous heights, the arrangements leave one marveling at the versatility of the recorder in general and of these five recorder players in particular.

Personally I fall in and out of love with the Goldberg Variations - torn between admiring sheer compositional artifice yet somehow hating the claustrophobic inescapable G major, the slightly stifling fearful symmetry. One of my favourite recordings has to be Glenn Gould's intense, maybe outrageous 1955 recording. Yet finding and communicating joy seems to be one of Seldom Sene's trademarks, and their recording allowed me to experience a similar tangible feeling of fun, whether expressed in marginally wry scale timings or vibrant trill intonations.

Buy the CD here.

Read Revoice!'s interview last year with Seldom Sene, here.

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