Hungarian-born British pianist Sir András Schiff plays Johan Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, a musical composition for keyboard consisting of an aria and a set of 30 variations. This performance was recorded on June 11, 2017, at the Pierre Boulez Saal, Berlin.

Hungarian-born British pianist Sir András Schiff plays Johan Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, a musical composition for keyboard consisting of an aria and a set of 30 variations. This performance was recorded on June 11, 2017, at the Pierre Boulez Saal, Berlin.

Bach’s Goldberg Variations

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, are one of the most celebrated works in the Baroque keyboard repertoire. Composed in 1741, they consist of an aria and a set of 30 variations. The work was reportedly commissioned by Count Kaiserling, who sought music to alleviate his insomnia. Bach’s student, Johann Gottlieb Goldberg (1727-1756), performed the variations for the count, leading to the work’s name.

The Goldberg Variations stand out for their intricate structure and thematic development. The aria, a beautiful sarabande in G major, serves as both the opening and closing piece, bookending the variations. Each variation is a distinct exploration of the aria’s harmonic structure, rather than a direct thematic transformation. The variations exhibit a wide range of styles, from complex counterpoint and canons to dance forms and virtuosic displays, showcasing Bach’s compositional prowess and the versatility of the harpsichord.

The work is divided into groups of three, with every third variation being a canon, starting at the unison and ascending by one interval with each successive canon. The final variation, a quodlibet, combines multiple folk melodies, providing a playful and humorous conclusion before the aria returns to close the cycle. The Goldberg Variations exemplify Bach’s genius in blending technical mastery with expressive depth, making them a timeless masterpiece that continues to captivate audiences and performers alike.

Structure

With start times in the video:

  1. 0:00:05 Aria: A serene, lyrical sarabande in G major, serving as the thematic foundation.
  2. 0:03:48 Variation 1: A lively, embellished two-part invention.
  3. 0:05:44 Variation 2: An intricate three-part invention with interweaving lines.
  4. 0:07:11 Variation 3 (Canon at the Unison): A canon where the leading and following voices are identical.
  5. 0:09:24 Variation 4: A sprightly dance-like piece with a buoyant rhythm.
  6. 0:10:31 Variation 5: A virtuosic hand-crossing toccata.
  7. 0:12:07 Variation 6 (Canon at the Second): A canon with voices a second apart.
  8. 0:13:31 Variation 7: A lively gigue with a dotted rhythm.
  9. 0:15:08 Variation 8: A virtuosic, fast-paced two-part invention.
  10. 0:16:58 Variation 9 (Canon at the Third): A canon with voices a third apart.
  11. 0:18:32 Variation 10: A four-part fughetta with a lively character.
  12. 0:20:11 Variation 11: A three-part invention with complex counterpoint.
  13. 0:22:21 Variation 12 (Canon at the Fourth): A canon with voices a fourth apart.
  14. 0:24:28 Variation 13: A lyrical, ornamented aria-like piece.
  15. 0:28:57 Variation 14: A lively, virtuosic piece with hand-crossing.
  16. 0:31:01 Variation 15 (Canon at the Fifth): A canon with voices a fifth apart.
  17. 0:35:21 Variation 16 (Overture): A French overture with a stately opening and a lively fugue.
  18. 0:38:02 Variation 17: A bright, fast-paced two-part invention.
  19. 0:40:16 Variation 18 (Canon at the Sixth): A canon with voices a sixth apart.
  20. 0:41:43 Variation 19: A light, dance-like piece.
  21. 0:43:06 Variation 20: A virtuosic piece with fast runs and hand-crossing.
  22. 0:45:03 Variation 21 (Canon at the Seventh): A canon with voices a seventh apart.
  23. 0:47:13 Variation 22: A lively alla breve with a march-like character.
  24. 0:49:21 Variation 23: A virtuosic, playful piece with rapid hand-crossing.
  25. 0:51:37 Variation 24 (Canon at the Octave): A canon with voices an octave apart.
  26. 0:54:03 Variation 25: A deeply expressive, chromatic adagio.
  27. 1:01:27 Variation 26: A lively, virtuosic piece with hand-crossing.
  28. 1:03:44 Variation 27 (Canon at the Ninth): A canon with voices a ninth apart.
  29. 1:05:29 Variation 28: A bright, fast-paced two-part invention.
  30. 1:08:33 Variation 29: A grand, virtuosic piece with intricate hand-crossing.
  31. 1:10:30 Variation 30 (Quodlibet): Combines multiple folk melodies in a humorous, lively finale.
  32. 1:11:58 Aria da capo: The serene aria returns, bringing the cycle to a reflective close.

Sources

M. Özgür Nevres

Published by M. Özgür Nevres

I am Özgür Nevres, a software engineer, a former road racing cyclist, and also an amateur musician. I opened andantemoderato.com to share my favorite music. I also take care of stray cats & dogs. This website's all income goes directly to our furry friends. Please consider supporting me on Patreon, so I can help more animals!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.