Bach. Goldberg Variations. Variatio 18


July 16, 2016


Bach at my side, Goldberg Variations


Variatio XVIII is a canon at the sixth in 2/2 time. It is written in three voices, two of which are played by the right hand. The two upper voices form the canon, while the left hand accompanies them. The canonic interplay in the upper voices features many suspensions. Commenting on the structure of the canons of the Goldberg Variations, Glenn Gould cited this variation as the extreme example of “deliberate duality of motivic emphasis […] the canonic voices are called upon to sustain the passacaille role which is capriciously abandoned by the bass.” Nicholas Kenyon calls Variation 18 “an imperious, totally confident movement which must be among the most supremely logical pieces of music ever written, with the strict imitation to the half-bar providing ideal impetus and a sense of climax.”

I consider this piece as one of the most beautiful variations ever written. Its simplicity and at the same time the extreme poetry of its melody leaves one speechless. Since this is a canon, in the first instance I’m showing the first of the upper voices, in the second instance the other. I think the listener should try to follow the line of the melody. This way, he could enjoy the beauty of the suspensions. Only supreme mastery can allow to write such a strict musical form in such a poetic way.