Studying Bach's Goldberg Variations

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janeeliotgardiner wrote:

janeeliotgardiner wrote:

I'm still here. Not sure where we are, exactly, though. Did we actually get to the overture?

 

Good question. Chris mentioned briefly the arabesca and canon before the ouverture, but I think the whole trio of pieces could do with a bit more of attention. Two of the pieces are very special I feel, the character piece (sarabande) and the canon. Fancy going ahead with them?

Well, looking back, I think

Well, looking back, I think the Canon (Var12) was covered rather well by Chris. I would only add one comment - the fact that the second voices takes the lead in the second half.  In other words, the inversion in the bass gets to start first once we hit the minor section. 

So perhaps we should look at variations 13, 14 and 15.........though they have been covered a bit here and there.

I agree with you about the special nature of 13. Speaking personally, I would place it above the Black Pearl in terms of emotional impact. It is clearly quite different to anything else that has gone before, anyway. It recalls the aria in terms of texture (especially balance of hands), compositional devices and also, to a lesser extent, overall spirit, though there is also an added dimension here: a dream-like quality, an inwardness or stillness, which the opening aria lacks. The bass, largely arpeggiated, follows the underlying pattern beloved of Chris. Hewitt notes the "violin figurations" and "two note sighs" in the accompaniment, which suggest the slow movement for a solo instrument.

Performance. For me, it has to be flowing, but not hurried. Gould, I think, gets it just right and it is hard not to be affected by the power of his performance. Only a pity he didn't do the repeat, which I think this variation, above all others, really deserves. Rosen I find altogether too fast, as I do Kempff. One additional, though slight, feature which distinguishes performances is the rhythm of the opening five notes (which is repeated throughout): quite a lot hold the first note for longer than the written value, essentially giving it a little dot, and then speed up the following three notes. Countless performers do this and I am not exactly sure what the justification is..........if any, at all. (Igor Levitt would be a good example, if you want to hear what I mean. Also Kenneth Gilbert.........and as his was the first version I knew, I was really surprised when I finally got the sheet music.)

I’m glad you feel like that

I’m glad you feel like that about 13 Jane: I’ve said it before, it is my favourite variation. I subscribe pretty much every word you’ve said above: it is indeed very different to all that came before, and to me it has a sort of feeling of arrival. The parallelism with the aria is also striking, even if subtle. I’ve I don’t know about more emotional impact than the Black Pearl: they inhabit very different pathos. I think many performers get it wrong, first by playing it too fast, secondly by not contrasting it adequately with the previous canon. Gould 81 does both perfectly (incidentally Williams thinks there is a case for playing the canon fast, as Gould does). Tempo-wise I would, in theory, think it is just a little bit too slow, but the way in which it characterises it, and makes it sing is so tender and beautiful. So much for all that  machine like and synthesizer nonsense. If this one doesn’t convert you to Gould nothing will do! The piece has a very strange vocal quality to it, somewhere in between aria and recitative. The way it drifts away towards the end of the second half is something.


I’m not so sure about the repeats, though. I think possibly a first half repeat and not second half repeat would be a very good idea.

Hi Jane, Chris' silence is

Hi Jane, Chris' silence is worrying. What do you think, should we leave it untill he (hopefully) comes back?

I am away at the moment. Back

I am away at the moment. Back next week, Monday or Tuesday.

Chris A.Gnostic

No worries, as long as you

No worries, as long as you are well....

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