Johann Sebastian Bach regarded the young Johann Gottlieb Goldberg as his most talented pupil. Not much more is known about the Danzig native Goldberg besides the fact that he was the dedicatee of the famous variations bearing his name. He died of tuberculosis at the very early age of twenty-nine but left behind a compact oeuvre giving us an idea of what might have come next. Alina Ratkowska teams up with the Goldberg Baroque Ensemble from the composer’s native Danzig/Gdansk on this recording of his two extant harpsichord concertos – which with their elegance, sensibility, and expression very much move beyond his teacher’s contrapuntal style.
The big sound of the Concerto in D minor opens this SACD. Grand unison leaps in dotted rhythm immediately captivate the listener, and a lyrical second theme already anticipates the classical sonata form. The extended initial tutti points to a large-format design, and in fact the work’s good thirty minutes of playing time even lend it Beethovian dimensions. Alina Ratkowska masters the virtuosic demands – Goldberg must have been an outstanding harpsichordist – with the greatest bravura.
And there is indeed quite a lot to master: racing runs (also in octaves), grand leaps, and wide-span chords challenge the soloist. However, Alina Ratkowska’s greatest strength is revealed in the slow movements: she develops broad melodic lines of marvelous intensity that we would not normally expect from the harpsichord, and when the wonderful strings of the Goldberg Baroque Ensemble accompany her con sordino in the Concerto in E flat major, a sound world of intimate magic spreads out before us.
Since Alina Ratkowska earned doctoral and postdoctoral degrees in Warsaw and Katowice, it is hardly surprising that she herself edited the scores for this recording. Her close association with Goldberg, also demonstrated by the establishment of the Danzig Goldberg Festival more than ten years ago, is reflected at every turn in her playing. Everything is captured in finely nuanced Super Audio CD technology in the three-dimensional sound of this 2+2+2 recording – and comes with an unlimited guarantee of all-around genuine listening pleasure!