In the year 1741, @jsbach tweeted:
“Excited to begin production on 32 Short Films About @GlennGould!”
#GoldbergVariations #NotAboutInsomnia #AllAboutThatBass
Scholars may disagree whether the tweet attributed to Bach is authentic or not, but all agree that publication of the Goldberg Variations, BWV. 988, in 1741, set in motion a narrative that continues up to and beyond our present time. Today, the mere mention of Goldberg Variations elicits reverential nods of assent.
The work is 32 movements in total, the first and last taking the form of a 32-bar aria. The variations are not on the aria’s melody, rather its bass line. Numbers play an important role throughout. The variations are in groupings of three consisting of two free variations followed by a canonic variation voiced in musical spacings of ever-widening intervals. The first canon begins at the unison (just like Row, Row, Row Your Boat) and is followed by canons at the second through ninth degrees. Instead of a 10th canon, Bach chooses a form called “quodlibet,” a glorious jumble of overlaid musical quotations and references. Heady stuff. At last, the aria returns, and we are all changed, performers and audience alike.
Tonight, we present Bach’s masterpiece in an arrangement for string trio (violin; viola; cello) by violinist Dimitri Sitkovetski. And that is a new and worthy topic unto itself…
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