The Goldberg Variations Variations

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Weydenhammer Portrait Fragment of J.S. Bach (Artist unknown/Wikimedia Commons)

Ever since Count Kaiserling – the wily Russian ambassador to Saxony – had his personal keyboard player Goldberg commission some variations from J.S. Bach to wile away some sleepless nights, musicians and audiences have been delighted by the Goldberg Variations for keyboard.

But what about composers? 

Well, composers take inspiration from this masterpiece as well – not only merely to write their own sets of variations, but also to intersperse, interpose, and interlocute with, between, and upon the original pieces themselves. Take for instance the work of Dan Tepfer, who creates improvised connecting pieces for the variations; these curios stand on their own equally well as a suite, as we'll hear them today. Or check out a version of the original, but played on prepared piano – boy howdy, it gets crazy.

The king of the Goldberg intervention might still be Uri Caine, whose massive set of variations in all conceivable styles makes creative minds everywhere despair to have such fecundity, and such amazing musician friends at one's disposal.

If you are the kind of person that likes to endlessly debate the various merits of different recordings of Gould's rendition of this piece, this show is for you. If you want to finally hear the Goldberg Variations a little bit differently, this show is for you. If you've never heard the piece before, but like good music, this show is for you. Basically, just listen to it, you'll like it.

Hosted by:

Brad Balliett and Doug Balliett

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