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The Goldberg Variations: a reduction

August 21, 2011


This past summer, I have done some work on and off on the Goldberg Variations by J. S. Bach (1685-1750).  This piece consists of an aria and thirty variations, and concludes with a repeat of the aria, for a total of thirty-two sections.  The theme, by the way, is also thirty-two measures long.  Furthermore, every third variation has two of the voices in canon (that is, doing a round like “row, row, row, your boat”), and the interval between the two voices is a step larger every time.  Thus, variation three has a canon at the unison, var. two a canon at the second, etc.   You didn’t know Bach could be so mathematical, did you?  Anyhow, to help myself learn the this lengthy work (if you take the repeats, they take the better part of the hour) , I made the following four-part reduction version of the aria, so that I could easily perceive the harmonic structure/bass-line which is the basis for the whole piece:    












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