Golberg Aria Anna Magdalena Notebook 1725

The Goldberg Variations: Bach’s magical inventiveness

It’s Baroque Month over on Bachtrack, with a selection of articles exploring repertoire and those who perform it…..

Long regarded as the most serious and ambitious work for keyboard, the Goldberg Variations display J S Bach’s exceptional knowledge of the many different styles of music of his day, and his own exquisite performing techniques. Originating from a simple idea – a beautiful aria over a ground (repeating) bass – the thirty variations present the history of Baroque music in microcosm: lavish displays of modern, fashionable expressive elements of the high Baroque, with just a hint of Classical idealism, together with magnificent structure and formal beauty. There are dances and canons, riddles and doodles, lightning flashes and filigree arabesques. Not until Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations was a similar work conceived on such a scale from a seemingly simple initial idea.

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More from Baroque Month

(picture: A handwritten copy of the Goldberg Variations aria, from the notebook of Anna Magdalena Bach, 1725. Metropolitan Museum of Art)