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Goldberg Variations by Bach – New Urtext Piano Sheet Music

New Urtext sheet music of the Goldberg Variations by Bach has been published by Piano Street today:

The complete score is now available for download for Gold members from the Piano Street Sheet Music Library.

Have a look at the FREE sheet music sample of the Aria and Variation 1 while listening to Murray Perahia playing the first part of this work.

The relentlessly intricate architecture of the Goldberg Variations still engage scholars after hundreds of years, while the soothing, noble poetry and formidable technical demands of the piece continue to captivate players and listeners.
A number of legendary performances of this monumental work have been recorded on piano as well as on harpsichord and organ, two of the most popular and highly regarded ones by Glenn Gould (piano: 1955 and 1981).

Johann Nicolaus Forkel wrote in his Bach biography (1802) that the Variations had been commissioned by the Russian Ambassador to Saxony Count Kaiserling, who suffered from insomnia. Goldberg was a young musician, who according to Forkel’s (probably spurious) version of events, was supposed to play from the Variations during the Count’s sleepless nights to cheer him up a little.

The thirty variations do not follow the theme’s melody, but rather use its bass line. Every third variation is a canon at increasing intervals, but the final variation breaks this trend and offers up a so-called quodlibet, where a number of popular tunes (among them one that goes “Cabbage and turnips have driven me away, had my mother cooked meat, I’d have opted to stay”) are used to a humorous effect. After this the heavenly Aria with its elusive beauty returns to close the work.


Gould’s Favourite Piece but not his Favourite Piano

In Katie Hafner´s recent book; A Romance on Three Legs – Glenn Goulds Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano (2008), the author has avoided well known and often exaggerated stories concerning Gould´s eccentricity. Instead, she focuses on Gould´s musical perfectionism, which was, of course, also quite eccentric.
The main characters in the book are Gould, the Steinway grand of his choice—instrument number CD 318—and his piano technician Verne Edquist. When it was in transport at one point in 1971, this grand piano was subject to a terrible collision and could never be properly restored.
Therefore, ironically, neither of the two Gould recordings of J.S. Bach´s Goldberg Variations (1955 and 1981) were made on Gould´s favourite instrument.

The Aria is played here on a Yamaha grand, shortly before Gould´s death in October 1982.

Glenn Gould´s contribution to to the world of Bach performance was rich and complex.
In addition to adding to the incipient popularity of original instrumental ancient music movement in the 1960s and 70s, Gould´s interpretations taught us about the potential of articulation and tempo (never indicated in Bach’s scores).

In this Aria, Gould uses a slower tempo than usual, giving an improvisational basis for the theme with time to experience both the importance of articulation, baroque decorations and the free, singing melody in a slowly moving harmonic context.
His experiments with time and musical meter truly changed our ideas of how to play Bach.


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