Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

Haiku Wednesday:  Bach’s Goldberg Variations



For Bach to give us
The Goldberg Variations
Would have been enough.

But that was number
9-8-8 of 10-80
It boggles the mind.

 “After a concert, I want to grab people by the lapels and tell them how lucky we are as a species that, out of all the hundreds of billions of us who ever lived, one of us managed to come up with the Goldberg Variations.”

Armando Iannucci, in The Guardian

The Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) is an aria and set of 30 variations by J. S. Bach published in 1741.  It is a masterpiece.

And what shall I say next?

I like this quote by pianist Jeremy Denk: “If there’s anything more terrifying than adding another recording to the existing legacy, it’s the idea of adding even one more word to the quivering mass of adulatory Goldberg verbiage” (read the entire excellent article here).

Yeah, um, what he said.  What could I possibly add?  So instead I provide resources to learn more and hear the variations for yourself.

NPR has written an introductory article on the piece and its history.

The Open Goldberg Variations project has made Kimiko Ishizaka’s performance of the piece on a Bösendorfer piano available for download for free or donation.  They also offer an option to purchase the performance on CD.  The score is available on the same page (scroll down).  You can also listen the piece and follow along in the score here.

Prefer a harpsichord?  The Oregon Bach Festival has made available an interactive website on which you can listen to the Goldberg Variations on harpsichord, piano, or synthesizer while following along on a score.

I urge you to also hear Glenn Gould’s legendary performances (both of them, 1955 and 1981—I abstain from expressing an opinion on which I prefer).  For something different, listen to Catrin Finch’s arrangement for harp.


Image attribution:

Elias Gottlob Haussmann [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


2 thoughts on “Haiku Wednesday:  Bach’s Goldberg Variations

  1. Amen, Sister! Thanks for all these neat sites and quotes. I do like Denk’s article- a little iconoclasm is healthy.

    See you tomorrow!


    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always love Denk’s writing. I always love the Goldberg Variations, despite the popularity. Thanks for this post which resulted in much stream-of-consciousness web roaming.

    Liked by 1 person

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