Remember when you were in high school and you fell in love with a particular song, and you wanted to hear that song every day for a month or perhaps two? And every time you heard it, it made you feel really, really good? Remember that?
Well that's what's happened to me for the past two months with J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations — in my opinion (and many others) one of the greatest pieces of music ever written (1742).
I've been familiar with the Goldberg Variations most of my adult life, but it's only since I listened to musicologist Robert Greenberg's lectures on Bach (from the Teaching Company) that I've begun to get a real appreciation for what Bach created. In particular, it was lectures 29-32 that did it for me. This is what the catalog says:
"Lectures 29–32 deal with the Goldberg Variations, probably the most singularly unified, most spiritually esoteric work created during the Baroque. In this intimate keyboard work, consisting of a theme, 30 variations, and a reprise of the theme, worlds of numerical, religious, and metaphysical symbolism have been found. The Goldberg Variations is a work of almost unbelievable substance, a whole infinitely greater than its 32 constituent parts."
There is a wonderful complexity to the Goldberg Variations that I've been slowly penetrating. All I know is that every time I listen to this piece, I feel better than when I started! I especially like the ten canons.
I own three recordings of the Goldberg Variations, two by pianist Glenn Gould and one by the great Polish harpischordist Wanda Landowska. My favorite is the legendary first Glenn Gould version (recorded when he was 22 years old in 1955); it's full on energy and sparkling clarity. I also like his second version made in 1981 just before his death (it's slower and more introspective).
Would you like to hear samples of the Goldberg Variations? Go here to hear!
But even better than that is this video I discovered of Glenn Gould playing almost the entire work. It looks as though it were made around 1981 (shortly before his death). It's 47 minutes long. I've watched it three times. You can clearly see a great artist lovingly playing a great work of art. His fingerwork is a sight to behold. [If you don't want to watch it, you might try just having it play in the background. Even better is getting the CD.] Have fun!
I'd be curious to hear your recollections and/or feelings about the Goldberg Variations. Also, if there's a piece of classical music that really moves you, I'd like to hear about it as well!