MFKH 2022 headline

Friday, June 9 / 10:30 p.m. / Church of St. Barbara


Johann Sebastian Bach: The Goldberg Variations – Aria with 30 Variations, BWV 988

Konstantin Lifschitz – piano



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Apart from a single early exception, during most of his career Bach showed no real interest in the form of variations. All the more surprising then is the fact that towards the very end of his life he composed a series of thirty variations which transcended by far all that had been produced by then in this genre. The series opens and closes with a fabulous two-part aria. The first idea is followed by thirty variations which sum up the method of counterpoint – the art of structuring an intricate texture with two and more intertwining parts. The variations differ in terms of tempo and character,  employing diverse figurations and echoing contemporary dance forms (jig, polonaise, minuet, saraband). Beyond all of that, Bach decided to compose every third variation as a canon where the follower melody repeats with a small delay the exact form of the leader. The follower starts with a prima interval (equal note), followed by a second interval (one note higher), and so on, up to a ninth interval (span of nine notes). The last, thirtieth variation leaves the celestial spheres, descending back down to earth, with the bass line ushering in two popular “hit” tunes from Bach´s time with correspondingly titillating texts.

Apart from these theoretical aspects, The Goldberg Variations also works as a showcase of virtuoso keyboard technique. Performed on a modern piano, some of its passages prove truly difficult to play – and yet, luckily enough this leaves fine pianists undeterred. Listeners attending one of the work´s rare live productions can look forward to an experience comparable to a life-changing journey. This music´s therapeutic effect is stunningly described in Anna Enquist´s short novel, Counterpoint.

                                                                                                sleeve-note: Dita Hradecká / translation: Ivan Vomáčka

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