The Lane Series
During the penultimate concert of the Lane Series last Friday, Simone Dinnerstein performed the Goldberg Variations by J.S. Bach. The concert was given at the Redstone Recital Hall and was sponsored by the Lane Series Piano Consortium (which, by the way, is always on the outlook for new members).
Dinnerstein wrote some brief but informative observations on the work, including her own astonishment both at Bach's incredible inventiveness, as well as his powerful communication with our own day, even though he lived more or less three centuries ago.
To comment on the structure of the piece as structure it is sufficient to say that there is an aria that opens the work, and from whose melody all the variations -- 30 of them -- are invented. On top of this, every third variation also contains a Canon, starting with a Canon at the Unison in variation 3, where the second voice enters on the exact same pitch as the original voice (think of Three Blind Mice or any other round). Every third variation the Canon begins one pitch higher; for example, variation six is a Canon at the Second interval of the scale, variation nine is a Canon at the Third etc. up to variation 27 which is a Canon at the Ninth, and which is a highly dissonant interval, even more so than variation six. Variation 30 is a quodlibet (a "what you will") based on two folk tunes, after which the opening aria is repeated close to work.
The challenges, both technical (the piece was written for a two-manual harpsichord, and a performance on a piano keyboard, which is a single manual, challenges the performer to bring the piece to life, as it were, with one hand tied behind the performer's back) and the interpretative, are many and awesome, because, in the final analysis, the work and its performer must paint a considerably larger picture than the parts might lead one to think, because the concert was not called an analysis of the Goldberg Variation, but a performance of a piece of music called the Goldberg Variations. Pretending from all the complexities of understanding that an auditor has to bring to a concert of music, the final judgment as to whether or not it constitutes a musical experience must be made by each individual listener as well as by the performer.