Classical Pianist plays Bach's Goldberg Variations
Amy Greer is a brave woman. The Goldberg Variations are rarely performed live even though they are an important composition both in Bach's output and in the musical world in general. Most pianists are reluctant to tackle the work publicly because the Goldbergs are, quite simply, wickedly difficult.
Legend has it that in the mid-eighteenth century, Count Kaiserling visited Leipzig bringing with him a young musician named Johann Gottleib Goldberg to study with Johann Sebastian Bach. The Count, an insomniac, asked Bach if he would compose a work for keyboard that young Goldberg could play to help him sleep. Supposedly, the result was the Goldberg Variations. This centuries old fib is highly unlikely, scholars now tell us. The fact is that the Goldberg Variations is Bach’s tour de force compositionally. It is as if he stuffed every possible puzzle and game into those 30 variations; it is like one Sudoku, one crossword puzzle, one rubik’s cube after another. But what is even more apparent than the clever mind-twisters is the presence of pure joy. You can almost hear Bach giggling, giddy with delight, as he designs his musical cartwheels in the air one variation after another after another. The mere complexity is one huge reason to doubt the story about this being a piece to fall asleep to. How can one fall asleep when there is so much happiness flying around?
There is also no danger the pianist will fall asleep while playing the variations. In fact, one needs not only a hefty amount of cognitive sharpness but a tank of oxygen strapped to one’s back to get through them. Not to mention another set of hands. And a good sense of humor.
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