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j.s. bach - the goldberg variations BWV 988 - program notes


EPTA

The 32 parts of the work:

Aria

Variatio 1
Variatio 2
Variatio 3 Canone all'unisuono

Variatio 4
Variatio 5
Variatio 6 Canone alla secunda

Variatio 7  al tempo di giga
Variatio 8
Variatio 9  Canone alla terza

Variatio 10 fughetta
Variatio 11
Variatio 12 Canone alla quarta

Variatio 13
Variatio 14
Variatio 15 Canone alla quinta, andante

Variatio 16 ouverture
Variatio 17
Variatio 18 Canone alla sesta

Variatio 19
Variatio 20
Variatio 21 Canone alla settima

Variatio 22 alla breve
Variatio 23
Variatio 24 Canone all'ottava

Variatio 25 adagio
Variatio 26
Variatio 27 Canone alla nona

Variatio 28
Variatio 29
Variatio 30 Quodlibet

Aria da capo e fine

About the Goldberg-Variations

The 'Aria mit verschiedene Veränderungen' dates from 1742, when Bach was assigned by Graf Kayserling the composition of a work that was to provide the Graf with 'Gemuthsergötzung' and diversion during his frequent spells of insomnia. At the Graf's court the brilliant harpsichordist Goldberg was employed, whose duty it was to entertain the Graf with his art. Naturally Bach knew this musician, as well as his fabulous play.

For the composition of this work Bach received the largest fee he was ever to get for any of his works, viz. 100 Louis d'Or in a Golden Cup. Yet it acquired fame primarily through Goldberg, higly esteemed as he was, also by Bach. And it was Goldberg's name that was to remain attached to the Variations.

The Goldberg Variations are unique in Bach's oeuvre. The many profound, even Kabbalistic, allusions to Kayserling as well as to Goldberg are inimitable. The architecture of the variations reminds one of a Gothic cathedral. In symmetry and structure one may speak of a perfect balance.