Goldberg: Trio Sonatas

Johann Gottlieb Goldberg: Complete Trio Sonatas
Ludus Instrumentalis, Evgeny Sviridov
Ricercar RIC 426. 69’57

Trio Sonata in C, DürG 13 (was BWV 1037)
Trio Sonata in A minor, DürG 11
Trio Sonata in G minor, DürG 12
Trio Sonata in B flat, DürG 10
Prelude and Fugue in g, arranged from Dür G 5
Sonata for 2 violins, viola & continuo in C minor, DürG 14

Johann Gottlieb Goldberg (1727-56) has been overlooked as little more than the name attached to the famous JS Bach variations, rather than a respected composer in his own right. This excellent recording from Ludus Instrumentalis should help to set the record straight. Goldberg was born near Danzig. In 1737 he met Wilhelm Friedemann Bach in Dresden, a trip instigated by the art-loving Count von Keyserlingk who was impressed with the 10-year old’s musical skills. After initial studies with WFB in Dresden, he moved to Leipzig in 1746, perhaps to study with JS Bach. The Bach variations were later composed for Goldberg to play for the insomniac Keyserlingk. Goldberg died aged 29 of consumption but, despite his young age, was described by a writer at the end of the 18th century as being on the same level as Bach and Handel.

The combination of influences from JS and WF Bach is apparent in this group of pieces, with a compelling mixture of a forward-looking gallant style of WFB with the contrapuntal rigour and harmonic adventure of JSB. This is perhaps best heard in the Trio Sonata in A minor, which opens in a galant style followed by a three-part fugue before concluding in the emerging Sturm und Drang style. The Prelude and Fugue in G minor is an arrangement of a harpsichord piece (Dür G 5) and is possibly the closest to JS Bach’s style.

Ludus Instrumentalis was founded in Saint Petersburg in 2014, and is now based in Cologne. Their playing and interpretation are excellent, with a clarity of tone that reveals the details of the musical lines. Very occasionally the balance is a little out of kilter, with the harpsichord sounding a little distant, but otherwise, the recording quality is fine, with an attractive acoustic.