Studying Bach's Goldberg Variations

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camaron wrote: Third cadence:

camaron wrote:

Third cadence: relative minor. My suspicion is that this is where things could be looked at. What happens there? I’ve gone back to our first three pieces. In variation III or first canon, the second half starts on the bass, soon followed by the two trebles chasing each other. Then a goosebumps sort of moment happens: before the treble voices are finished the tenors enter in stretto and in what I think is minor mode (those with the knowledge and score might want to check that this is correct). I never fail to the touched by this moment. So from now own I’m going to start paying a close attention to this G Minor cadence.

D minor?

I have been looking at the score. I think I know the part you are referring to. It begins in the upper voice, a triplet figure - three descending semiquavers, repeated. Then  the whole figure drops a note, so we have a descending sequence. The next voice (the second soprano) then takes up the canon a bar later. Midway through that bar, the bassline mimics this triplet figure, only inverted, so it is ascending. 

That must be the part you mean. The bass of these canons is usually pretty independent. The canon is always realised in the upper two voices. (There are always three voices per canon, with the exception of variation 27, where there are only two.) This time, however, the bass gets in on the action just as we are heading for home: we are only talking about one and a half bars.

What is going on harmonically? We need someone with a bit more expertise than me. My reading is that a lot is going on! We are in E minor at the start of this sequence and somehow, three bars later, we end up back in G major again. One thing Bach does, though I don't know how to analyse that, is he keeps switching between f sharp and f natural. There is also a repeated figure of abcabc, and as the c isn't sharpened, we are dealing with a minor third. Anyway, putting those together, I think that's why we get such a bitter-sweet, major-minor feeling, until the key finally settles on G major again. 

But as I said, we could do with someone (Parla?) with more expertise in harmonic analysis........

E minor! I meant to say E

E minor! I meant to say E minor at the start of that last post.

Thanks so much for the effort

Thanks so much for the effort Jane! The part I mean starts on 1:09 following Goulds 1981. Stretto is surely the wrong term, but the voice (it is no the bass, is it the tenor?) comes in before the second the second soprano has said her lot.

I mean, just before the

I mean, just before the second soprano finishes saying her lot, so it feels sort of truncated, like in stretto entries in fugues.

......A few bars before the

......A few bars before the point I had thought! The sequential triplet figure I mentioned starts at 1.16.

I am not exactly sure what you are hearing here.........there are only three voices in this canon; two upper and one lower. The bass (or lower voice) doesn't really have much to do with the canon until it briefly chips in at the point I mentioned earlier. At the point you are listening to, I can only think you are listening to the unfolding canon in the upper voices.

Forget that last post. I have

Forget that last post. I have had another look at the bass voice.........I think I see what you mean. I will come back later.

The bass does appear to echo

The bass does appear to echo some of the movements in the canon at the point you mention. Just after the soprano gets going (the first voice, actually; the second is holding single notes at this point or even silent), the bass begins a rapid downward scalic run which does sound as if it is following the rapid downward scalic run in the soprano line half a bar earlier (which proceeds to execute a rapid upward line in contrary motion to the bass!). Anyway, that could be what you are hearing. It is, indeed, in the minor: it is a descending E minor scale, minus the top E at the start, followed by an ascending E minor arpeggio.

What might have drawn your attention to the minor nature of this voice is the fact that the soprano, though still in E minor as well, has just done a little GABGAB semiquaver figure - which, taken alone, does give it a prominent G major sound. It is as if Bach was preparing us for the proper return of the tonic major, while still holding onto E minor.

Thanks again Jane. It must be

Thanks again Jane. It must be very satisfying being able to follow the music on the score.

camaron wrote: It must be

camaron wrote:

It must be very satisfying being able to follow the music on the score.

The score is free on imslp, if you want.

If you don't know how to follow a score, it takes surprisingly little to learn. We are talking hours, really, to get a basic grasp of the notation. Obviously, you would be slow at first, but I think you would be astonished how much you could get from such a small investment. Understanding a score at a deeper, analytical level takes a lot of training, however. I don't really have this, but I can still enjoy following the notes. You can at least get an idea of how the music is organised in terms of voices etc. I would never say it was essential to understanding or enjoying music, but it can add to it and it can help to open your ears to a piece that was otherwise a bit opaque. I would never have got into the Mozart operas if it wasn't for the scores, which I'd picked up in a library sale simply because they were almost free.

Apologies if you can follow a

Apologies if you can follow a score, but was simply referring to the fact that you didn't happen to own this one!

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