After the last, and most introspective, of the three minor-key variations in the colossal piece, the reflective clouds were dispelled by the warm, rippling breeze of major-key sonorities that MacGregor conjured from the piano.
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And what she did was extraordinary. As the waves of clangorous sound dispersed, you realised that she had actually started playing the aria while the pealing sound tolled on. You didn’t hear it begin. It just gradually emerged from the subsiding sound, like a distant memory. Bach purists were probably climbing the walls. I found it an incredibly poetic and haunting image.
The big structure of her interpretation was long range, with the emotionally mountainous 15th variation, slow and solemn in the minor key, as a crucial point of balance.
From that moment, the music returned to the major key with a feeling of liberation. Not even the second foray into the minor halted its progress. Only that third, heart-stopping minor-key reflection gave pause to the flow.
Within the big shape, it was MacGregor the risk-taker at work, painting alternative perspectives within each repeat section of every variation. She lives dangerously, this spirited artist, but her journey through the Goldbergs was an enthralling one.
Star rating: ****