J.S. Bach: Works for Harpsichord Volume 1
Richard Lester has been at the centre of early keyboard music for fifty years with a professional career that began in 1966. His teacher, George Malcolm generously promoted his debut recital at the Wigmore Hall, and from that followed concerts including the Royal Festival Hall Purcell Room, master-classes and recitals at Dartington International Summer School, Bruges Festival and the Bath International Festival. As a Fellow of the London College of Music, he has given many organ recitals in King’s College, Cambridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Cathedral, Ely Cathedral, Coventry, and in 2013 he was invited to perform in St Mark’s, Venice, and Bergamo Cathedral.
His vast discography for Nimbus Records is acclaimed world-wide and includes: the complete keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti; the majority of Girolamo Frescobaldi’s keyboard works on original instruments, organ masses by Girolamo Cavazzoni, Andrea Gabrieli and Claudio Merulo; and sonatas by Carlos Seixas, Antonio Soler, Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He has also compiled and edited a volume of Italian Renaissance keyboard works which includes a DVD on early fingering and ornamentation plus a CD demonstrating works by composers associated with St Mark’s in Venice (also published and available from Nimbus). A review on MusicWeb International commented: ‘A master-class and entertainment in one.’
This is the first volume of a projected complete edition of J. S. Bach’s keyboard works with a planned release schedule of one double-CD release from now until 2023, making seven volumes in all. With two well-filled discs as an opener, this seems like an attractive prospect, and we are immediately treated to what has become one of Bach's best known keyboard works, the Goldberg Variations. While Lester's reading is scholarly, or measured and accurate rather than audaciously individual, my appreciation for his interpretation grew constantly over the first proper run-through and has remained respectfully admiring on subsequent hearings. There is playfulness here, but this is to be found in the inner life of these pieces rather than in their speed—avoiding the superficial virtuosity of velocity. Linking the first variation to the Aria ensures that the number of each subsequent variation corresponds to its track number on the CD, so there is method in this approach.