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|j.s. bach - the goldberg variations BWV 988 - program notes|
The 32 parts of the work:
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.