JS Bach Goldberg Variations BWW 988
Re-composition for choir & baroque ensemble by Gustavo Trujillo
The Goldberg Variation - The original
The original title reads: Clavier Übung / bestehend / in einer ARIA / mit verschiedenen Verænderungen / vors Clavecimbal / mit 2 Manualen. / Denen Liebhabern zur Gemüths- / Ergetzung verfertiget von / Johann Sebastian Bach / Königl. Pohl. u. Churfl. Sæchs. Hoff- / Compositeur, Capellmeister, u. Directore / Chori Musici in Leipzig. / Nürnberg in Verlegung / Balthasar Schmid Keyboard exercise, consisting of an ARIA with diverse variations for harpsichord with two manuals. Composed for connoisseurs, for the refreshment of their spirits, by Johann Sebastian Bach, composer for the royal court of Poland and the Electoral court of Saxony, Kapellmeister and Director of Choral Music in Leipzig. Nuremberg, Balthasar Schmid, publisher.
Count Hermann Carl von Keyserlingk of Dresden suffered from insomnia and during his wakeful nights he enjoyed listening to music played by his private harpsichordist, Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, who was at that time just 14 years old! To cheer the count up, Bach was commissioned to compose a piece for this young keyboard virtuoso.
Alas there is no shred of evidence to confirm the truth of this nice story – it is a description of the conception of the Goldberg Variations, written in 1802 by Nicholas Forkal, an early Bach biographer.
Since the beginning of the 19th century there have been numerous adaptations and arrangements of the Goldberg Variations. The work was obviously composed for a keyboard instrument, but the contrapuntal style of writing makes it very appealing for performance with other instrumental ensembles; imitations and canons form the core of the ‘keyboard practice’. The variations are predominantly three-or four-voice, with a clear harmonic progression and a melodic range appropriate for most instruments.
The work is full of fine melodies, canons and fugues. Some of the variations were originally from songs, such as the Aria and the Quodlibet; other variations almost beg to be sung. That is why the idea was born to rewrite the Goldberg Variations for 16 voices.
It was challenging to produce an arrangement which sounds like authentic Bach vocal music; not sung keyboard music, but an idiomatic management of the choir, using vocal lines and singable melodies with text for articulation and phrasing. Not a literal arrangement, but a re-composition of the Goldberg Variations.