The 'Goldbergs,' Remixed

Mar 26, 2012
Originally published on March 23, 2012 3:14 pm

Or call them the 'Incognito Goldbergs.'

All this week, we've been examining Bach's monumental and yet intimate Goldberg Variations from all sorts of perspectives. But we've lavished most of our attentions thus far on various keyboard iterations, from Leif Ove Andsnes' thoughts on Glenn Gould to Andreas Staier on the harpsichord to Jeremy Denk playing a pianistic piece of public art, along with a generous serving of Denkiana all week long.

But what we haven't really addressed up until now is the incredibly vast array of Goldberg arrangements that exist for alternate instruments: some marvelous (I wouldn't be as happy in a universe that didn't contain Uri Caine's joyfully polyglot take on the Goldbergs) and some just plain head-scratching (Moog-ified Variations, anyone?).

At their best, such arrangements and revisions showcase the endless possibilities that Bach's genius presents — and also expand the repertoire for certain instruments, which is not a small thing for, say, the harp or the saxophone).

So here are six very different takes on the Goldbergs, and each one brings out a different quality in Bach's music. As Denk so elegantly explains, the composer spun a "seemingly infinite world of possibility" out of eight simple notes in a bass line.

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