The Goldberg Variations were written for solo keyboard, and is most easily realized on a two-manual harpsichord, based on the technical demands Bach placed on the performer. It's among his most important keyboard works and is hugely popular. In this episode, I discuss some of my favorite performances and some things to listen for.
Check out the following links to learn more about this work.
- Open Goldberg Project - Kimiko Ishizaka
- Gould's Bach Collection from Sony
- Ton Koopman performs BWV 988
- Blandine Rannou performs BWV 988
- Jacques Loussier Trio performs BWV 988
Bach would of course take on the art of variation writing in his later works, such as the Art of Fugue and the Musical Offering, using counterpoint as the mechanism by which to weave new music. Counterpoint does play a role here in these variations, especially those featuring canons. Bach's treatment of the "variation" however is through the bass line as presented in the opening Aria. While more difficult to hear, it is a potent teacher that profoundly great things can be built upon a good foundation.