Donald Satz wrote (June 30, 1999):
Auvidis/Astree has been releasing at mid-price some of their excellent catalog items. One such recording is Blandine Verlet's version of Bach's Goldberg Variations, recorded in 1993.
One thing about the reissue I admire is the fine packaging and full booklet notes. There's even a cover which you can keep or discard depending on how cramped you are for space.
Verlet's performance is very good, although I did have a few problems with it. The inital aria sounds like Verlet had to catch a fast moving train, but she couldn't run at a consistent pace - too fussy. Things improve thereafter. Her subsequent speeds are moderate, even a little slow at times. I do wish she had done a better job with the flow of the work, and I didn't care for some of her note emphasis decisions. There were many times when I wanted a strong emphasis on a particular note, and Verlet didn't provide it. I thought she knew what I wanted.
Anything good to say? Well, I'm nitpicking quite a bit. I'm using Hantai, Tipo, Rousset, and a few others as references. That's tough competition. The Astree recording is excellent, but not in any way possessing subtlety. That's probably good since Verlet possesses none either, except in the final "repeat" where she takes a 360 degree turn and provides all the subtlety you could want. She sounded like Tureck at that point - that's good.
I think I may have become too particular concerning this work. That's the danger of intimate familiarlarity and purchase of many versions - standards get somewhat unreasonable.
Overall, I think the Verlet, at mid-price, is an excellent choice for those with at least a few versions, even though I've been taking some jabs at it. I'll likely keep Verlet in my cd-rom for a few weeks. I've been finding that playing a particular disc continuously for some weeks while at the computer yields an interesting result: no matter what I initially thought of the music, I eventually am converted. This just happened with the Le Roux harpsichord disc on Harmonia Mundi. My initial reaction was, "why would anyone want to perform this guy's music?" Now, after dozens of listenings, I think it's great stuff. I find myself humming it at work. On to Stockhausen!
It's time for one of my extraneous paragraphs. I had made a big deal out of my resolve to finally get my cd collection into a well-regimented storage system. A funny thing happened when I completed this task. I started feeling very sad that I knew exactly what was in each drawer and on each shelf. My old feelings of surprise and anticipation entirely left me and were replaced with a feeling of boredom and the routine. So, I removed every single cd and just spread them around the house in a random order. Then, I re-stacked them all, again in random order. I feel good now.
I should have listened to my wife. I had told her of my resolve, and she said, "you'll finish it but you won't keep it." My response was, "why do you say that?" Her reply was, "it's not you, and you never keep anything that's not you." I said, "watch me." Fortunately, she was out of town when I undid it all; my home looked like Sound Warehouse on a bad day. One thing's for sure. It takes much less time to scramble your collection than categorize it. I need to keep remembering that I'm a spontaneous guy who likes to use the "shuffle" button on the cd player. Why bother going to a gambling casino when you can invite folks over and shuffle their money into your pocket? Also, there's no classical music at the casinos, and New Mexico is loaded with Native American owned casinos. In this State, only Native American tribes and Pueblos are authorized to suck up the coins.