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portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach

Composed: 1741

Rating: 4.500 (average of 2 ratings)

Genre: classical > baroque > solo piano

Quotable: --

Work(s): *

  1. Goldverg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier- Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9) [63:40]
* Number in [] indicates average duration of piece.


  1. Aria
  2. Variation 1
  3. Variation 2
  4. Variation 3
  5. Variation 4
  6. Variation 5
  7. Variation 6
  8. Variation 7
  9. Variation 8
  10. Variation 9
  11. Variation 10
  12. Variation 11
  13. Variation 12
  14. Variation 13
  15. Variation 14
  16. Variation 15
  17. Variation 16
  18. Variation 17
  19. Variation 18
  20. Variation 19
  21. Variation 20
  22. Variation 21
  23. Variation 22
  24. Variation 23
  25. Variation 24
  26. Variation 25
  27. Variation 26
  28. Variation 27
  29. Variation 28
  30. Variation 29
  31. Variation 30
  32. Aria da capo

Sales (in millions): - NA -

Peak: - NA -

Singles/Hit Songs:

    - NA -


    Rated one of the top 1000 albums of all time by Dave’s Music Database. Click to learn more.

Goldberg Variations
Johann Sebastian Bach (composer)
“Johann Sebastian Bach completed the Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, for keyboard in 1741. The work consists of an aria and 30 variations. Scholars at the end of the twentieth century were still debating the exact details of the work’s origin, but many accept that J.G. Goldberg commissioned it. His job was to perform for Count Keyserkingk, a chronic insomniac who needed music to lull him to sleep. Many records suggest that Bach once taught Goldberg, a famed virtuoso, who would have easily been able to play the variations. It is also believed that the technical wizardry required to play the variations comes directly from Bach's study of Domenico Scarlatti’s Essercizi for keyboard from 1739, itself a daunting piece for exceptional players only.” JK

“The aria that Bach used is of unknown origin; it was probably not the composer’s own, but was related to a now-untraceable French keyboard dance. The basic harmonies and structures of the variations are all the same as the theme’s. The work exemplifies Bach’s quest for the greatest amount of diversity within relentless unity. The Goldberg Variations are among the most sophisticated works ever written for keyboard, but the work does not sound like the awesomely complex compendium that it is. The music is deceptively simple and heartfelt, with a noble calm even when the performer is obliged to cross hands at lightning speeds. It never seethes or gets gritty, and is, of course, never boring. The aria theme is subjected to ever-new means of contrapuntal manipulation. Every third variation is a different kind of canon. The final variation breaks with this trend in order to offer up a quodlibet which uses well-known tunes for a humorous effect. The tunes, ‘Cabbage and beets have driven me away" and ‘I have so long been away from you,’ were a rousing, popular tune and an end-of-the-evening dance number respectively.” JK

“This work is sublime and compassionate, graceful, warm, and relentlessly intricate, a demonstration of unmatched craft in music history and genuine, poetic imagination. The Goldberg Variations is a work that still engages scholars hundreds of years after its publication and is equally valuable for attracting new listeners to this sort of music.” JK

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Last updated March 22, 2011.