Donald Satz wrote (October 13, 2004):
Haskell Small - Pianist and composer, Small has a cult following along the East Coast of the United States. Judging from this disc, his following should be much more extensive. Small is an exceptional pianist of the highest order, and his compositions are always stimulating and easy to absorb.
How can one CD of the Goldberg Variations accommodate a coupling? - This is a simple one to answer. Just omit the repeats, and Small skips almost all of them.
Any problems skipping repeats? - I think that the symmetry of the work is damaged, because there is a cumulative effect that is not realized when skipping repeats. Further, keyboard artists often vary the repeats as to articulation, tempo, dynamics, and ornamentation.
Any other problems? - Yes, in that Small tends to refrain from the most exuberant displays as well as the most intense such as in the "Black Pearl" Variation 25.
Problems be damned - Although repeats are skipped and emotional breadth is not fully realized, Small's performance of the Goldberg Variations is still very compelling. Fantastic sonorities, graceful playing to die for, and superb voice interaction more than offset any concerns. Best of all, I've never heard a more lyrical account of the work.
25 Preludes - Highly interesting and varied music. It would be easy to say that these pieces are either other-worldly with notes evaporating into the universe or they are jazz-like with some ragtime and boogie-woogie elements. However, Small often blends these features together in the same variation. I have listened to this work many times, and its allure has not lost its shine in the least.
Sound Quality - Superb soundstage although the works were recorded in different venues and in different decades. Just as a test, I used my trusty equalizer and found that the sound is wonderful no matter where the settings reside. I should relate that there is a slight hiss to the 25 Preludes, but it's only noticeable on headphones and absolutely no impediment to enjoying the show.
Don's Conclusions - Highly recommended to all keyboard enthusiasts. The disc might be a little difficult to find, but the search is well worth the time.