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Music and Time

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«It is Impossible to Take to the Work in the First Hearing» (A. Schweitzer): the History of Comprehension and Performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations in 1700s–1900s
A.Y. Velikovskiy

The article discusses the history of comprehension and performance of Bach`s Goldberg Variations within the last 250 years. Due to its enormous length, sophisticated internal structure, technical complexity, and peculiarities of the instrument, this variation set long remained esoteric. In the 1700s, the work was primarily valued as scholarly polyphonic music, and the 1800s musicians did not dare to perform it on the concert stage in its entirety preferring its fragments. A significant factor contributing to the propagation of the opus was its new publications (since 1803), including editorial versions, as well as its transcriptions. Vital steps to rethinking Bach’s concept and reviewing the performing tradition in the 1900s were Busoni’s piano transcription (1915) that aimed at recreating the cycle as a whole, albeit abridged, as well as the revival of harpsichord performance. A new era in Goldberg Variations interpretation history was ushered in by G. Gould through his gramophone record (1955), which became a bestseller and helped popularize the work with various-level musicians, both professionals and amateurs, commemorating a genuine renaissance of Bach’s composition in late 1900s.
Keywords: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, Bach, Busoni, Gould, Landowska, the Bach music publication, interpretation, editorial version.

Contacts: E-mail: velalex@hotmail.com

Pp. 22-31.

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