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Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Quodlibet from Goldberg Variations - Discussions

Songs in GV's quodlibet

Thomas Braatz wrote: (January 28, 2005):
On 'imprecision' (John Browning)

Jim Morrison stated: >>Jim (who like Brad had trouble with Frisch's Goldberg's but is thrilled by the companion disc, the reason I bought it, of the Goldberg canons and the speculations/recreations of the songs that were used in the famous Goldberg quodlibet. Until reading the liner notes to the Frisch set I have >no idea that there was such controversy over just what the songs actually were that Bach used. Any further information on this issue would be appreciated.<<
According to NBA KB V/2, Siegfried Wilhelm Dehn (1799-1858) was the first to make the correct association although musicians before him must have known what 'Quodlibet.' Dehn noted under the notes in the copy once owned by the famous collector of Bach manuscripts, Georg Poelchau (now in the British Museum/Library, London) the complete texts of both folksongs:

Ich bin so lang nicht bey dir g'west
Ruck her "--"--"
Mit einem tumpfen Flederwisch
Drüb'r her, drüb'r her, drüb'r her.

[I haven't been with you (or at your place to visit with you) for such a long time. Move over (closer to me), move over, move over. "Mit einem tumpfen Flederwisch" is quite obscure without any additional context. Here are some possibilities: This could be a reference either to male or female anatomy. The DWB (equivalent to the full Oxford English Dictionary) indicates that 'Flederwisch' could mean a 'sword', but that it can also somehow be associated with a woman ("Flederwischjungfer.") More commonly it refers to a bunch of (Goose?) feathers (used for dusting?) But 'tumpfen' can be related to 'damp, moist, wet.' So now we have something feathery that is damp or wet. You will have to use your (wild?) imagination to put this together properly.

The last two lines -- some possibilities:
I am sitting here 'with a damp sword' or "you, with your damp, feathery duster"
"Drüb'r her" = come all the way over here to me, to where I am

----

Kraut und Rüben haben mich vertrieben
Hätt' meine Mutter Fleisch gekocht
Wär' ich länger g'blieben./blieben.

[Eating only cabbage (Sauerkraut?) and beets [main staple of meals in off season all winter long and spring as well] has driven me away from here (home? or home of the master where the apprentice is living?) If only my mother (real? or the master's wife who has become the surrogate mother?) had cooked meat more often, I would have stayed here much longer and not have left to go elsewhere.] [Additional words supplied to enhance the text.]

Scholars have been unable to locate anything more about the source of the 1st melody and text (there is no earlier documentation of it.) As a result, we are left with only the incipit which Bach used -- there is no extant version of the entire song. Even the extension of the melody beyond the 10th note is completely hypothetical (some more recent sources have 'composed' the notes for 'ruck her" etc.)

There are some other folksongs that have the same incipit. The most interesting parallel is the connection with opening melody of the chorale, "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" Another close parallel is the dance melody found in the 3rd mvt. of the Cantate burlesque BWV 212. It is more than a mere coincidence that the time of composition of the Goldberg Variations falls together with the performance of the 'Bauernkantate." (BWV 30a, BWV 212)

"Kraut und Rüben", the other song that is quoted in the Quodlibet is described in the NBA KB as Bergamasca-type tune/dance that has been given a German text. Here, in this instance, the entire melody is contained in Bach's Quodlibet.

Any other possible, interpretative suggestions or translations regarding the folksong texts are welcome. Perhaps some of the liner notes for the Goldberg Variations recordings have some other translations?

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (January 29, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Ivars Taurins, conductor of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir (and possibly my future conducting teacher at UofT) agrees with you, and provides an interpretation. From the liner notes of the GV perf by the Canadian Brass, which Taurins served as musical advisor (making this an HIP recording?):

"The Goldberg quodlibet...offers a comical subtext to the composition. The first song has the text 'Ich bin so lang nicht bei dir gewest' (I have not been with you for such a long time), a reference [or cry] to the opening aria. The text of the second song tells us why: 'Kraut und Ruben haben mich vertrieben' (Cabbage and turnips have driven me away). "Kraut und Ruben" is also used in colloquial German to mean a confused jumble. Bach is perhaps suggesting that the string of increasingly complex variations have driven away the simple aria..."

there isn't anything in the liners to ensure Taurins' credibility, but it still sheds some fascinating light on the issue

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 29, 2003):
Matthew Neugebauer related the following: >>Ivars Taurins, conductor of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir (and possibly my future conducting teacher at UofT) agrees with you, and provides an interpretation. From the liner notes of the GV perf by the Canadian Brass, which Taurins served as musical advisor (making this an HIP recording?):
"The Goldberg quodlibet...offers a comical subtext to the composition. The first song has the text 'Ich bin so lang nicht bei dir gewest' (I have not been with you for such a long time), a reference [or cry] to the opening aria. The text of the second song tells us why: 'Kraut und Ruben haben mich vertrieben' (Cabbage and turnips have driven me away). "Kraut und Ruben" is also used in colloquial German to mean a confused jumble. Bach is perhaps suggesting that the string of increasingly complex variations have driven away the simple aria..."
There isn't anything in the liners to ensure Taurins' credibility, but it still sheds some fascinating light on the issue<<
Yes, "Kraut und Rüben" meaning 'Mischmasch' ['put together in helter-skelter fashion' or 'all mixed up without any particular order' was 1st documented in 1684 (what a coincidence!) in a book published in Leipzig. Taurins' idea makes a lot of sense to me. It almost appears to be the humor that we might expect from a musical genius such as Bach. Brahms likewise spoke rather disparagingly of his 2nd symphony to Clara Schumann in a similar fashion, making the work appear to be simply a trifle. Bach was very likely proud of the detailed organization of the GV which up to the final quodlibet was a masterpiece of development adhering to a very specific ordering of the variations. The quodlibet then serves as a final comical release in which the composer has one of the folksongs express an idea that is absolutely contrary to everything that has preceded it. The other song creates a feeling of longing for the aria which hasn't been heard from in a long time. This is also humorous because the aria has been present in every variation all along. But the feeling of longing in "Ich bin so lang nicht bey dir g'west" ["I haven't been with you (or at your place) for such a long time"] anticipates the return to aria and leads directly to it. This comic release is a fitting final variation to a rather serious work.

The question still remains whether Taurins was the first to come up with this connection or did he rely on another source for this insight? I have not read much about the musical interpretation of the GV.

Jim Morrison wrote (January 29, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Just wanted to say right now thanks for all the great posts on the quodlibet. More on that later.


Quodlibet [was particularity / Frisch's Goldbergs]

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 30, 2003):
The information from the French source which Jim Morrison quoted is quite interesting in pointing out the difficulty in ascertaining the sources of the two folksongs that Bach quoted in the Quodlibet of the Goldberg Variations. The article goes into some depth in tracing the history of the Quodlibet, but also of the dform, the Bergamasca. The concept of the ‘Kehraus’ is a valid one. I will try to explain this later. However, in attempting to relate the ‘Totentanz’ to the ‘Kehraus,’ and one of the folksongs as well (“Ich bin so lang bey dir nicht g’west”) the French author is obviously clutching at straws und uses this as a springboard for connecting this Bach quodlibet with a Romantic tradition that did not exist in Bach’s time. There is, perhaps, a remote literary connection between them.

Here is the quotation from the French article:

"Dans un texte publié en 1696[Schellmuffskys warhafftige curiöse und sehr gefährliche Reisebeschreibung zu Wasser und Lande Und zwar d. Allervollkommenste u. Accurateste Ed. in hockeyeuse Frau Mutter Sprache eigenhändig u. Sehr artig an d. Tag gegeben von E.S. (i.e. Christian Reuter], une troupe de musiciens interprète devant l'hôtel de ville un divertissement musical ressemblant fort à un quodlibet, dans lequel se mêlent des tambours battant la sarabande, des chalemies exécutant une Todten Tantz (danse des morts), un cistre accompagnant une danse paysanne et, le plus intéressant pour nous, deux luths jouant la chanson "ich bin so lang bey dir nicht gewesen".

According to a published report from the year 1696 (where?), a group of musicians in front of a city (which?) hotel engaged in some street entertainment part of which had a drum pounding away the dance rhythm of a sarabande (certainly not the stately sarabande of the courts which Bach was emulating), another group produced a dance of death played by shawms, (chalamieux, Schalmeien.) [Imagine an instrument louder than the bagpipes (Berlioz commented that he could hardly stand to listen to them close by. Chalumeau and bagpipes were used since the 13th century in military bands - In 1646 the Brandenburg-Prussian Military Band had a quartet of shawms or Schalmeien – other terms used are canemelle, canemielle, chalamis, chalemelle, chalumelle, chalemie, chalumeau, chirimia; or as a verb chalemeler, calemeler, kalemeler, qalemeler, chalameller, calimeler, chalumeler; etymologically derived from ‘calamus’ = Rohr = reed). Majers (1732) stated that this instrument had a range of not much more than an octave,] there was another group that played the zither for a peasant dance, and then there were two lutes (imagine trying to hear these on an main street in front of a hotel) accompanying the folksong, “ich bin so lang bey dir nicht g’west.” The performance of these groups sounds much more like a vaudeville or carnival entertainment with an emphasis on grotesque elements.

Der Totentanz (‘danse des morts’ or ‘dance of death’)

The farfetched notion that the coincidental concatenation of this rather freakishly wild series of musical acts which really have nothing in common with each other musically except that these are being played by a band of wandering minstrels, does nothing to prove any sort of connection between Bach’s use of a German folksong in the 30th variation and the ‘Totentanz.’ In checking out the MGG on this point, the ‘Totentanz,’ as any sort of musical tradition even of a folk variety is nonexistent before the 19th century. Only in an entirely obscure monastery was a manuscript from the Middle Ages found which carried this title. Other than references to famous woodcuts depicting a skeleton with a drum and the famous, “Totentanz” organ of Lübeck which was destroyed in the 2nd WW, there is nothing! But at the beginning of the 19th century (the French author quotes a German Romantic poet, August von Platen) ‘all hell breaks loose.’ Famous composers ‘get on the bandwagon’ and compose “Totentänze.” The list is very long.

The connection of the “Totentanz” with the “Kehraus” is very tentative and somewhat questionable; however, “Kehraus” by itself is a term and concept which is very useful in understanding Bach’s Quodlibet.

Der Kehraus

The DWB describes this term as the last (perhaps this is why the Romantics such as August von Platen tried to make this connection with the ‘Totentanz’) extremely joyful and even wild dance at a festival or feast. This is a dance during which the dancers, almost in an attack of insanity, release and drive out all of the emotions that have been aroused during the course of the evening’s dancing. “Kehraus” comes from the verb, “kehren” which means ‘to brush out with a broom’ [‘aus’ = ‘out.’] The word derivation implies, according to the DWB, that this final, rather wild dance, which is usually longer than the rest, will have the long dresses of the females touching the dance floor more frequently than before and thus they will be helping to sweep the floor clean.

On examining the quote by August von Platen, “Fiedler Tod, o spiel uns doch den Kehraus,” ["Fiddler Death, do play for us the 'Kehraus'"] the DWB referred me to yet another similar word, „Kehrab,“ which is a final, long-lasting dance usually performed by the wedding guests at the end of dance festivities. They join hands and literally sweep the floor with their dance movements (and possibly even with their fur capes which the women wore, but would now be happy to remove them for their sweeping movements.) Because some of the guests, whether they had been dancing or not, were carried out unconscious (they had obviously had too much to drink), Franck, in his book of proverbs (1545) states, “He (Death) is thought of as being present as the piper who plays the final dance (‘Kehrab’), or even as the dancer who takes part in this final dance (‘Kehrab’) dancing all the way out of the dance hall with human beings who are being danced out of this life.” [“Er ist da im Anschluß an die Vorstellungen des Totentanzes als der Pfeifer gedacht der den Kehrab spielt, oder selbst als der Tänzer, der den Kehrab tanzt mit den Menschen, ihn aus dem Leben, zum Tanzsaal hinaustanzt.”] So, although there is no verifiable musical tradition as such connecting the „Kehraus/Kehrab“ with the Totentanz, the notion, the analogy of a final dance being equated with one’s own final dance with Death, was present in a literary tradition (in a rather rare/unique quotation.)

The MGG, in discussing the development of the form of variations in the 18th century refers to some of the significant features being 1) figurative variations; 2) Increasing the depth of feeling (use of variations in a minor key); 3) attaining breadth of expression (adagio variations); 4) the final variation as a “Kehraus.” So here we have “Kehraus” used as a term in musicology without making any direct connection with the Quodlibet in the Goldberg Variations, but it will not take much to begin to connect the dots between the two.

In discussing the ‘Gigue,’ the usual concluding mvt. of a suite, the MGG states the following: “In trio sonatas the gigue likes to move in parallel thirds and sixths. Characteristic features are time signatures of 12/8 or 6/8 at a presto or vivace tempo, musical figures consisting of chords, the use of “Fortspinnung” of the melodic line and the “Kehraus”-function (which occurs particularly in the later period in the works of Geminiani and Tartini.” [“In Triosonaten geht sie gern in Terzen- und Sextenparallelen. Charakteristisch sind 12/8- oder auch 6/8-Takt im Presto oder Vivace, akkordische Figuration, Fortspinnungsmelodik, »Kehraus« -Funktion (besonders in der Spätzeit: Geminiani, Tartini)“]

The Quodlibet in Bach’s family

Johann Nicolaus Forkel stated regarding the meetings of the extended Bach family, many of whom were cantors, organists and town musicians generally began with a chorale, but then moved on to humorous songs which contrasted greatly with the former, “For now they sang popular songs, the contents of which were partly comic and partly naughty, all together and extempore, but in such a manner that the several parts thus extemporized made a kind of harmony together, the words, however, in every part being different. They called this kind of extemporary harmony a ‘Quodlibet,’ and not only laughed heartily at it themselves, but excited an equally hearty and irresistible laughter in everybody that hear them.” Did you catch that? Some of the songs were 'naughty?'

Bach and the Bergama

Quote from MGG:

“Finally, the most interesting example, the German folksong, “Cabbage and Beets,” used by J.S.Bach in his final Quodlibet of the Goldberg Variations. This fact is very revealing because it demonstrates two things: 1) the process that the previously instrumental melody known as the Bergamasca is now given a text in Germany, and 2) that a musical form of folk music from Italy enters into a higher form of music in the 17th century, but then returns from there into the folk music of another nation as a German folk song.”

[„Endlich, als interessantestes Beispiel, das von J.S. Bach im Schluß-Quodlibet der Goldberg-Variationen verwandte deutsche Volkslied »Kraut und Rüben«. Diese Tatsache ist aufschlußreich, denn sie zeigt zweierlei: einmal den Vorgang, daß die als reine Instrumental.-Melodie überlieferte Bergamasca in Deutschland textiert wurde, zum andern, daß das aus dem italienischen Volksgut kommende Element der Bergamasca über die Kunstmusik des 17. Jahrhunderts in das deutsche Volkslied eingedrungen ist.“]

Fricassée, Ensalada, (Macaronic Poetry etc.), anyone hungry?

The history of the Quodlibet is lengthy and involved. It has been around a long time throughout the major countries of Europe and is also known as ‘Fricassée’ in France and ‘Ensalada’ in Spain. In Germany it had other names as well: ‘Bettlermantel’ [‚beggar’s coat,’] “Farrago” [a Latin term] and from a dictionary by S. Roth from 1571: ‘durcheinandermischmäsch’ [‘a real mixed-up mess of odds and ends.’]

The Quodlibet as the Final Piece in a Suite

According to the MGG, there is a precedent established for placing the Quodlibet at the very end of a suite. It may be a stretch of the imagination to consider the Goldberg Variations as a suite, but in a rather vague way they might qualify in this regard. “Since the 16th century suites could occasionally end with a set of variations –the composers and dates are given – but Hammerschmidt in 1650 places a Quodlibet at the end of the suite as the final piece. These (variations and Quodlibet) always come last in a suite.” [“Seit dem 16. Jahrhundert vervollständigten gelegentlich Variationen (bei Groh 1612, Moller 1610, Farina 1628 und Hammerschmidt 1650 ein Quodlibet) die Suitendrucke. Sie standen stets am Ende des Werkes.“]

Was Bach familiar with the suite by Hammerschmidt?

Jim Morrison wrote (January 30, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thanks Thomas,

You're fantastic. Where would this list be without you?

As an aside on the Quodlibet, the work has never stuck me as particularly funny or as a joke, but simply as a celebratory ending to a fantastic work of art. I know it's a bit incongruous in that this variation, according to the format of the previous variations, should be a canon, but aside from that, what's 'funny' about the way the composition sounds? It doesn't remind me at all of the musical jokes of, say Haydn or Mozart, or the sometimes humorous mimicking of animals sounds in baroque compositions. In fact the quodlibet, as it sounds to me in 2003 makes a very appropriate last variation and seems in fact to be the kind of joyous climax that the work has been building up to. Do others hear it this way, as a kind of climax that brings a smile to your face not because it's 'silly but because it's so damn good and fitting though a little unexpected? or do some of you hear it as a kind of incongruous joke that really does sound out-of-place?

Don't get me wrong, I understand that quodlibets were something of party songs, but musicians are constantly picking up prhases that are circulating in the musical atmosphere and using them in ways that no one would think of as funny. Why should we consider this use of Bach's funny? If the Bergamasca was such a common tune to use, why does it suddenly become funny why Bach picks up on it? And it must have been one hell of an inside joke because one of the songs that Bach suppossedly used in the quodlibet no one can find a record of!

How did Bach's contemporaries respond to the quodlibet? Did they think it was so funny and strange?

Seems to me this is more of a case of us as listeners being told this is a funny work, while our ears are telling us something different.

Yes, there is some humor in the composition. But there's been humor in the variations that came before it and I don't think we think of those variations as jokes, do we. I'm for reading the quodlibet connection as more of a joyous last dance than as a 'haha' joke.

Jim Morrison wrote (January 30, 2003):
And how about putting an overture in the middle of your composition! No THAT strikes me as incongruous. ;-)
(what's the precedent for that?)

Jim (who thinks there's been humor and some oddness throughout the Goldbergs; what a rich, diverse work it is)

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 31, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Tom, thanks for posting these references from the MGG. I've printed them out for keeping with recordings....

On the "Kraut & Rueben" tune, don't either MGG or the NBA mention the direct connection with Buxtehude's 32 variations on "La Capricciosa"? It's the same key, same meter, same melody (especially prominent in Buxtehude's variation #21), and looks like an obvious tribute by Bach to one of his mentors.

p.s. Are they sure that's the "chalumeau" in the 13th century? It was invented in the 17th...the proto-clarinet.... Shawm is an entirely different instrument, double reed, loud and raucous, and an ancestor of the oboe; while a chalumeau has only a single reed (and is a gentle instrument).

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 31, 2003):
Brad, here are your comments and questions:
>>On the "Kraut & Rueben" tune, don't either MGG or the NBA mention the direct connection with Buxtehude's 32 variations on "La Capricciosa"? It's the same key, same meter, same melody (especially prominent in Buxtehude's variation #21), and looks like an obvious tribute by Bach to one of his mentors.<<
The NBA KB V/2 does not make that connection, (which does not mean that your observation is not valid), but they mention a connection between the 1st 8 "Fundamentalnoten" which are also used by Handel in a Chaconne (No. 9 of "Suites de Pieces pour le Clavecin," vol. 2, London 1733 -- the same notes that Bach used in the Canon BWV 1087. Spitta had already observed a connection between the "Sarabande, duodecies variat" by Johann Christoph Bach. It is printed out in the KB and would be no problem for me to scan and post it, if you are interested.

There is a special indentation which precedes the caption/title "Ouvertüre" to establish this variation as the half-way point. This corresponds exactly with Bach's division of the Aria itself into two sets of 16 bars each. Each of these bars contains one bass note; hence, 32 notes = 32 measures = 32 mvts. "There is no previous model for this arrangement."

Check out Buxtehude carefully, and let's see if we can call the NBA editors on this assumption. The MGG gives great importance to Buxtehude's "La Capricciosa" without making a direct connection between it and the Goldberg Variations.

>>p.s. Are they sure that's the "chalumeau" in the 13th century? It was invented in the 17th...the proto-clarinet.... Shawm is an entirely different instrument, double reed, loud and raucous, and an ancestor of the oboe; while a chalumeau has only a single reed (and is a gentle instrument).<<
From what I gather after reading the article on the "chalumeau," this instrument was extremely loud and could easily compete with the bagpipes. It was a folk instrument and not taken seriously (Praetorius doesn't even mention it.) Music written for it first appeared at the beginning of the 18th century. There is also some confusion about whether these earlier forms had double or single reeds.

In 1706 a publisher in Amsterdam printed "Fanfares de chalumeau à 2 dessus." The use of 'Fanfares' indicates a very loud sound indeed!
["Der Amsterdamer Verleger Roger gab 1706 Fanfaren heraus »de chalumeau à 2 dessus« [!]."]

In 1713 Mattheson speaks of the 'howling symphony" of chalumeaux (plural!) and comments that they should only be listened to »auff dem Wasser zum Ständ/ und zwar von weiten / hören lassen« ["for a serenade on the water {barge music?} and definitely from a distance."] This indicates that, until Denner began perfecting/improving this instrument, it had an extremely loud, raucous sound. These are the instruments that Berlioz must have been referring to, instruments that had not yet undergone the transformation toward the clarinet sound and continued on into the 19th century. These 'proto-clarinets' were not delicate in sound. We have no idea what Telemann's concerto for 2 chalumeaux really sounded like. Certainly not anything like the clarinet sound that we are familiar with today.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 31, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] As if the direct quotation of the "Kraut & Rueben" tune weren't enough, here's another delightfully obvious connection between "La Capricciosa" and the Goldbergs:

In his variation 31, Buxtehude writes a fake trill that goes all the way through the variation, constantly: there is a rest on each beat, but that is filled in by the notes struck in the other voices, and through a trompe d'oreille of the harpsichord tone (the aural equivalent of an optical illusion) the trill sounds continuous.

In his tribute to that, in variation 28 of the Goldbergs, Bach doubles him. He writes the trills twice as fast and has them going in both hands at the same time. Same clever effect, just more of it!

And both of these are at similar points in the sets of variations: the grand brilliant peroration near the end.

Mere coincidence? I don't think it's possible. Both pieces containing the same musical joke?

And a weaker connection: Buxtehude's variation 29 and Bach's variation 4 both look similar on the page, in texture (leaps) and meter and rhythm. No direct copy here, but a kinship.

And an opposite: Buxtehude's set is much easier to play than it sounds, while Bach's is much harder to play than it sounds. :)

Jim Morrison wrote (February 1, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < On the "Kraut & Rueben" tune, don't either MGG or the NBA mention the direct connection with Buxtehude's 32 variations on "La Capricciosa"? It's the same key, same meter, same melody (especially prominent in Buxtehude's variation #21), and looks like an obvious tribute by Bach to one of his mentors. >
Any recommendations for recordings of Buxtehude's La Capricciosa? I only have the Alessandrini. He takes about 23 minutes to complete to the work. A quick bit of math should let you know that for the 32 piece set most the individual variations are played at length shorter than one minute. Is that common? Any repeats that he may be omitting? How many other 32 section baroque keyboard works are there? Why 32? Any reason Bach would pick that number other than his connection with Buxtehude?

Quodlibet was tribute. Yep! Goes with what I'm hearing!

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 2, 2003):
Jim Morrison wrote: < Any recommendations for recordings of Buxtehude's La Capricciosa? I only have the Alessandrini. >
Rinaldo Alessandrini, Mitzi Meyerson, and Lars-Ulrik Mortensen...I can't decide on a "best" among those three, they're all so well done!

Check out those other two: they both use the buff stop that I know you like. :)

Yesterday I put on the Mortensen disc to soothe and entertain the baby, and it seemed to work very well. It sure is more pleasant to hear Buxtehude's harpsichord music than the interminable repeats of wind-up or electronic devices that the manufacturers of baby equipment dish out. (Hell, to a musician, is hearing hours of bad mechanical music over and over and over and over and over and over...and I can only guess at the mind-eroding effect it's having on my daughter.)

Hey, how about that as a genre...keyboard variations as baby-soothing music? Now that I think of it, it's hard to imagine that it was NOT done in households such as Bach's. "Karl! Don't you hear your little brothers and sisters squawking? Help us out here buddy! Get over there and play something nice, calm them down. La Capricciosa or whatever, or just make up something. Or play some of your dad's stuff, heck, whatever! Yes, you can count it as part of your practice time."

Or how about the quodlibet as what happens when two or more of the Bach kids are practicing at the same time on different instruments?

Would there have ever been a completely quiet day in Bach's house in 40 years?

< He takes about 23 minutes to complete to the work. A quick bit of math should let you know that for the 32 piece set most the individual variations are played at length shorter than one minute. Is that common? Any repeats that he may be omitting? >
He's playing all the repeats, and the variations are short. Bach is the one who's atypical here, making his aria and variations much, much longer than the norm. In the keyboard variation repertoire from about 1550-1750 I'd say Buxtehude's variation length here (~45 seconds per variation) is about average.

Thomas Radleff wrote (February 2, 2003):
La Capricciosa + GV Quodlibet

Jim Morrison asked: < Any recommendations for recordings of Buxtehude's La Capricciosa? I only have the Alessandrini. >
A refreshing record, collecting five Trio Sonatas, one Praeambulum, and only half of La Capricciosa (why? - 16 of 32 partitas, 13´58´´) The New Consort: Mariette Holtrop, violin, Naomi Hirschfeld, viola da gamba, Reitze Smits, harpsichord. Ottavo Records (NL) 1994. 63´20´´.

One of my favourite Goldberg Variations on harpsichord is the recording by Sergio Vartolo, Tactus 1989, 2 CDs. (He also recorded Frescobaldi´s complete keyboard works on Tactus and Naxos. Since the early nineties, he is director of the Capella di San Petronio in Bologna.) According to the Goldberg Variations Maniacs Homepage http://www.a30a.com/ (see discography -V), this GV recording is the longest ever: 101´41´´. Another surprise in the Quodlibet: he sings ! Just the title lines: "Ich bin so lang nicht bei dir gewe´n", "Kraut und Rüben haben mich vertrieben" and "Ruck her, ruck her, ruck her".

despite of the singing, recommended by Thomas R.

Jim Morrison wrote (February 3, 2003):
[To Thomas Radleff] Thanks for the recommendations, Thomas.

I've had my eye on the Vartolo set for a few years, but as I mentioned earlier, I'm in a phase where I'm trying to purchase as little as possible recordings of compositions which are already well represented in my collection, and nothing is more represented in my collection than the Goldbergs. 101 minutes! Wow that's long. Where does the CD break occur? Are they two discs of around 50 minutes each? And is that really a Zell harpsichord he's playing, or a modern instrument based on a Zell.

Jim (who loves the 1728 Hamburg Zell, which Leonhardt and van Asperen and a few others have recorded)


BWV988/30 Eye and/or Ear Music?

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 1, 2005):
BWV 988/30 Eye and/or Ear Music?

Aryeh has kindly assisted and place on the BCW my discussion of BWV 988/30. It is found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/BWV988-Quodlibet[Braatz].htm

After investigating BWV 524, one of the only two quodlibets that have come down to us from Bach's pen, I have also looked into the historical background as well as the interpretation of Bach’s best-known quodlibet, the final variation in the set of variations known as the Goldberg Variations.

What I have discovered, contrary to Andras Schiff’s opinion regarding Variatio 30 that it should simply be treated non-reverentially: "He [Bach] was not at all concerned with posterity, and it is important not to treat every bar too reverentially." That is especially true, Schiff suggests, of the 30th and last variation, the so-called Quodlibet. "We are expecting a variation that is true to the structure of the piece, which would be a canon in tenths. Instead, Bach produces 'a most human climax', a movement whose title means literally 'what pleases'” If Schiff had looked more closely, he would have found canons in 9ths and 11ths in this same variation

The fact is that serious study of this music begto reveal a much more carefully structured, formal composition that serves both as a summary of what precedes it as well as pointing to future possibilities of development. The fact that words of the folksong “Ich bin so lang nicht bei dir g’west” {“I haven’t been together with you for such a long time”] coincide with and are thought by the listener/player to connect meaningfully with the reappearance of the basic bass line which had only made a few rare appearances throughout the entire set of variations can be construed as an intentional connection on Bach’s part, a kind of musical pun where the words of the folksong now relate to an important structural element of the entire set of variations.

Literally another folksong sings of “Kraut und Rüben” [“cabbage and beets”] as food, but this combination of German words in a figurative sense can mean a ‘hotchpotch’ or ‘jumble’ of things. Various things which do not belong together are thrown together; hence, selecting this folksong with this particular text offers at the same time a definition of what we might normally find in a quodlibet.

Another folksong “Mein junges Leben hat ein End’” [“My young life is now coming to an end”] can also be understood as a deliberate choice of folksong text by Bach to help in underlining the arrival of this set of variations at a culminating end point. It is as though this wonderful set of variations, having already quickly (early in its life) reached Variation 30, must now come to an end

More astounding yet is Bach’s use of these three folksongs contrapuntally as canons, following the methodical progression of canons at increasing intervals. In the quodlibet Bach uses an amazing number of different types of canon in only 16 measures.

And yet, more research needs to be done to identify the missing folk tunes. One hint, which I am unable to pursue, is given by Elaine Sisman [in the article from Grove Music Online which I quoted in my discussion] who points out: >>Froberger's most celebrated variation set makes up the sixth suite, ‘auff Die Maÿerin’… also known as ‘Schweiget mir vom Frauen nehmen’ (the title of a poem by Georg Greflinger published in 1651; a variation set by Reincken with both titles made its way into the Bach family scriptorium).<< Here we have important sets of variations by Froberger and Reincken based upon a folksong: “Die Mayerin” [“The Farmer’s Wife/Peasant Woman“] or “Schweiget mir vom Frauen nehmen” [“Don’t talk to me about taking a wife.”] Is it possible that the incipit or some other important fragment from this melody may also have been used by Bach for the yet unidentified themes in Variation 30?

Musical Interpretation on Keyboard Instruments

If Bach prescribed only one manual on the harpsichord (with two manuals it might have been possible to ‘bring out’ certain melodies while emphasizing others less), what does this tell us about his possible intention to allow all the different melodies to be heard equally, i. e., without any special emphasis on any particular one as they appear in this variation. Will unusual articulation such as the sharp, accented shortening of certain notes over against the legato treatment of others provide the listening experience that Bach might have had in mind?

What about a Gould-like approach on the piano? Will it be sufficient to attack crisply with greater volume and clarity the opening notes of each entry and to de-emphasize those fragments which have not yet been identified? Or is it sufficient simply to provide a joyous and celebratory mood without worrying too much about all the details?

Was Bach simultaneously addressing various levels of listeners from the first-time, uninformed to the most astute critical listeners among which would be world-class performers and top-notch Bach scholars?

I would like to hear various opinions on this subject as well as constructive criticism of the material that I have presented. Any corrections and/or additions to this commentary would be very welcome.

John Pike wrote (January 1, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] The quodlibet is one of my favourites of all the Goldberg variations. I would certainly agree that this music is actually very profound as well as artistically very complex.

I haven't read Schiff's notes but I have read Perahia's and although I generally found them very good, I wasn't convinced that he had done the quodlibet justice (in his notes).

Of the recordings of the Goldbergs that I know best (Gould (1955 and 1981), Schiff 2, Perahia and Tureck), Gould is my favourite in the quodlibet. I think his performance is actually very deep with all sorts of moods and dimensions brought out. I have never found any of the other recordings I mentioned (much as I love them generally) quite as satisfying as Gould.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 12, 2005):
Goldbergs' Quodlibet, dissected

< I would like to hear various opinions on this subject as well as constructive criticism of the material that I have presented. Any corrections and/or additions to this commentary would be very welcome. >
Let's keep that in mind. With some trepidation I respond at all, offering the help that was explicitly asked for. As always, my interest is in the accuracy and reliability of the information that is presented.

The "Mein junges Leben" claim (on the web page, marked in light blue) is too tenuous to be credible. The author has already raised two valid objections against himself, in his attempt to rationalize them away (not that they should be rationalized away!). What's wrong with letting Bach simply write a free voice here, based on a simple descending scale, where he's providing counterpoint to harmonize with three existing parts?

Sometimes a scale is just a scale, not a quote of "Mein junges Leben". Not every single note of any given piece has to be thematic! Especially so, when the machinations to make it be that particular tune by appearance (allegedly) are so arbitrary and extensive, changing the mode of the entire phrase to Mixolydian. At least the author is aware that the objections make sense!

Furthermore, for "Mein junges Leben" to be present here as claimed, there is the required additional premise that all real musicologists and expert performers have failed to notice it and remark about it. Not likely.

The attempt to assign folksong meaning to each and every one of the grey notes (on the web page), or the other snippets that have pulled out to their own staves for investigation, is even more a dead-end pursuit. Allow Bach to have written normal music here, fashioning his lines as he saw fit to bind the contrapuntal and harmonic texture together! Not every single note has to be thematic! Having already killed the frog to dissect it, must we also break every organ down to its smaller fragments of tissue to justify every note?

< More astounding yet is Bach’s use of these three folksongs contrapuntally as canons, following the methodical progression of canons at increasing intervals. In the quodlibet Bach uses an amazing number of different types of canon in only 16 measures.>
Like what? How are any of them beyond Bach's normal process of contrapuntal composition? And, how would they be in any way "astounding" to a seasoned composer? Has the author read a scholarly book about the history of counterpoint, such as Walker's Theories of Fugue from the Age of Josquin to the Age of Bach, to find out what "different types of canon" are to be expected in music of this sort, and to find out if they're "astounding" or not (except maybe to someone who automatically worships and rationalizes the greatness of everything Bach ever did)?

Furthermore, if the "methodical progression of canons at increasing intervals" is being followed here (allegedly), we'd see canons at the 10th here in the Quodlibet. Again, this point is too tenuous and contrived to be credible. It's just arbitrary analysis, an esoteric treasure hunt to deliver whatever results the author wants to find there, to help him appear smarter and more thorough than Andras Schiff and other people who know the music really well. Bach's canons, when he writes them, are thorough. The snippets here in the Quo, if they're demonstrable at all beyond merely a few notes at a time, are not.

< And yet, more research needs to be done to identify the missing folk tunes. One hint, which I am unable to pursue, is given by Elaine Sisman [in the article from Grove Music Online which I quoted in my discussion] who points out: >>Froberger's most celebrated variation set makes up the sixth suite, ‘auff Die Maÿerin’ also known as ‘Scchweiget mir vom Frauen nehmen’ (the title of a poem by Georg Greflinger published in 1651; a variation set by Reincken with both titles made its way into the Bach family scriptorium).<< Here we have important sets of variations by Froberger and Reincken based upon a folksong: “Die Mayerin” [“The Farmer’s Wife/Peasant Woman“] or “Schweiget mir vom Frauen nehmen” [“Don’t talk to me about taking a wife.”] Is it possible that the incipit or some other important fragment from this melody may also have been used by Bach for the yet unidentified themes in Variation 30? >
Not likely. I play the Goldbergs and the Froberger "Mayerin" suite, and those Reincken variations. (Buxtehude's "Capricciosa", too, and the variation sets by Bull, Byrd, Hassler, Sweelinck, and Scheidt: the back-tradition from the Goldbergs. This is standard repertory for understanding the Goldbergs in historical context.) I don't see any connection of melodic fragments here between this particular "Mayerin" tune and Bach. It's just the coincidence that several excellent composers happened to write music in G major and a C meter, using tunes that are metrically square.

The "Mayerin" tune as Froberger gives it (see especially its simplest version in his variation 5) is: B B A B G F# E D, E (or G) G C B A G. D D C C B A G#, A A G F# E D. G A B C D, A B C D E, D D C B A G. That tune has exactly the same outline in the Reincken set, but gets more decorated, and put through more variation of figuration and meter.

< If Bach prescribed only one manual on the harpsichord (with two manuals it might have been possible to ‘bring out’ certain melodies while emphasizing others less), what does this tell us about his possible intention to allow all the different melodies to be heard equally, i. e., without any special emphasis on any particular one as they appear in this variation. Will unusual articulation such as the sharp, accented shortening of certain notes over against the legato treatment of others provide the listening experience that Bach might have had in mind? >
This issue of clarity is a NON-PROBLEM on good harpsichords played by experienced players, using normal performance techniques.

<snip>

The detail presented, along the way, is at least interesting...and we should thank the author for that. <snip> We're also better served by practicing the music in toto instead of guessing about its construction. I played through the Quodlibet and the Mayerin variations here, to check my above remarks. How is it respectful to the music to rip it apart into questionable little snippets of esoteric treasure? Bach's achievement here is the way he has put the music together, the way he interleaves the two known folksongs into a texture that feels good in the hands and that sounds good in the ears. The rest of it is connective tissue. I don't see how that's difficult to understand or to accept.

I'm not happy with Schiff's remarks in his CD booklet (the ECM one), but that doesn't change my assessment that he plays the music marvelously. In my opinion, that ECM recording is one of the best piano recordings of the Goldbergs available.

My daughter (age 2) and I came up with a profoundly appropriate way to enjoy this recording this evening. I put it on the stereo, and we danced to it for a while. Then we sat on the floor and she made up a bunch of counting and tapping games with a pile of cinnamon sticks. This refreshed our spirits, just like it says on Bach's title page of the book.

Donald Satz wrote (January 12, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] I love the newer Schiff version of the Goldberg Variations. If any version imparts "refreshment of spirits in a joyful way", as Brad puts it, it's the Schiff.

John Pike wrote (January 13, 2005):
Quodlibet in GV

I was listening to Angela Hewitt's recording of the GV this morning. Another wonderful recording. I particularly enjoyed her quodlibet at the end. Quite a slow tempo but penetrating the depth of this wonderful variation. I love the way she sustains the last note so long. It leads so nicely back to the aria. Highly recommended.

I agree with Brad that (overall) Schiff 2 is one of the finest recordings of the GV on piano. It is very lively and dances along so well, but I am a bit disappointed by his quodlibet. I much prefer Gould, Tureck and the slower tempo of Hewitt in this one.

Iori Fujita wrote (January 13, 2005):
Quodlibet is an interesting tune.

A virtual Bach's comment;

"There was a certain reason why I made the 30th variation into Quodlibet, which means a random mixture. The Russian ambassador to the electoral court of Saxony in Dresden, Count Keyserlingk, admired my music kindly for a long time. Six years ago, in the year 1736, the Count made a great effort for me to be designated as the court composer of the electoral court of Saxony. In fact, the Count himself brought me the information of designation. That year, I went to the capital of the electoral court of Saxony, Dresden, and on the 1st of December I made a memorial performance in order to express my gratitude using a newly made organ by Jilbermann, an organ manufacturer for the Saint Mary Church. Count Keyserlingk was there and later sent me a letter saying that my performance was impressive. So, I visited his mansion to thank to all the things he made for me. The Count friendly received my visit, and we talked about favorite music and about other many things. Then we became like old friends. Since then the Count stopped by my house when he had business in Leipzig. In these years, his honorable son is studying here at the Leipzig University, so the Count had frequent chances to come to this city. One day when the Count dropped at my home, the Bach's family music party had taken place. With the Count presence, my family and friends had hesitation unusually. But as time passed, usual cheerfulness came back finally. So not only serious music but also funny and popular songs in the street were played and sung. For the Count it was a peculiar experience. Among many songs, one girl ;"I've not been with you for so long. Come closer, closer, closer." and "Beets and spinach ; "Beets and spinach drove me far away. Had my mother cooked some meat, then I'd have strayed much longer." made him amused. So I memorized it. On thet day no one made any Quodlibets using these two songs. But many other Quodlibets had been made and enjoyed. The Count said to me later that there were lots of funny songs like Quodlibet. Then I decided to make new Quodlibet based on these two songs."

Music of Intellect: http://www.geocities.jp/imyfujita/goldberg/index.html

Iori Fujita wrote (January 29, 2005):
The Goldberg Variations - Quodlibet Questions

This is a fiction;

Quodlibet
J. S. Bach's expectations in 1742;
"It was a mere coincidence. When Count Keyserlingk requested me to make a piece of music which would help count for sleep well, I was doing composition with that Sarabande as the theme. It was a good luck that Count liked that Sarabande which Anna played for him. The point of Count's request was anti-insomnia, so I was going to give careful consideration in the course of the later half part composition. One thing was that it would be for sleep and played at night, so the number of variations had been set to 30 after 30 days of moon tide. Another thing was that as time passed then music would be calmer and deeper. It was done by the 25th variation. So this variation should not be played sentimentally, but it should be performed with serener and deeper repose. If it doesn't work and the spirit of sleep doesn't appear to him, it is not strategic to keep fighting through the night. For this case I prepared a such story continuing light variations and finally giving a pastime by the Quodlibet."

"There was a certain reason why I made the 30th variation into Quodlibet, which means a random mixture. The Russian ambassador to the electoral court of Saxony in Dresden, Count Keyserlingk, admired my music kindly for a long time. Six years ago, in the year 1736, the Count made a great effort for me to be designated as the court composer of the electoral court of Saxony. In fact, the Count himself brought me the information of designation. That year, I went to the capital of the electoral court of Saxony, Dresden, and on the 1st of December I made a memorial performance in order to express my gratitude using a newly made organ by Jilbermann, an organ manufacturer for the Saint Mary Church. Count Keyserlingk was there and later sent me a letter saying that my performance was impressive. So, I visited his mansion to thank to all the things he made for me. The Count friendly received my visit, and we talked about favorite music and about other many things. Then we became like old friends. Since then the Count stopped by my house when he had business in Leipzig. In these years, his honorable son is studying here at the Leipzig University, so the Count had frequent chances to come to this city. One day when the Count dropped at my home, the Bach's family music party had taken place. With the Count presence, my family and friends had hesitation unusually. But as time passed, usual cheerfulness came back finally. So not only serious music but also funny and popular songs in the street were played and sung. For the Count it was a peculiar experience. Among many songs, one girl ;"I've not been with you for so long. Come closer, closer, closer." and "Beets and spinach ; "Beets and spinach drove me far away. Had my mother cooked some meat, then I'd have strayed much longer." made him amused. So I memorized it. On thet day no one made any Quodlibets using these two songs. But many other Quodlibets had been made and enjoyed. The Count said to me later that there were lots of funny songs like Quodlibet. Then I decided to make new Quodlibet based on these two songs."

"Well, do you imagine why I didn't assign the canone with 10 steps difference in place of that Quodlibet? In terms of number, the 30th variation should have been the canone with 10 steps difference. The reason was that, as I said about the canone with 9 steps difference, the canone with 10 steps difference would not be suitable for the purpose of that work, I mean 'for sleep'. A canone with 10 steps difference can be easily obtained by modifying a canone with 3 steps difference adding one octave high or low to the following melody. But melodies cannot collaborate to make harmony. There will not be any creation of zero gravity in sound space. Then the 30th variation was to be a Quodlibet, mixture of canone or something different. Even so the first four bars was on the canone formula. At first 8 steps difference, then 5 steps difference. Frankly speaking the 30th variation is not a canone, but there are several tricks put together. Especially the melody 'Beets and spinach' was used 8 times in total 16 bars of the 30th variation. The original level, 5 steps above, the same level, 9 steps above, 2 steps above, 2 steps below, 3 steps above, 4 steps below. This melody doesn't show up only in 3 bars out of 16 bars. In 7th bar and 8th bar of the first part of this variation and also of the last part, a rotatable counterpart technique was incorporated. As a whole, there are four parts of melody. Then the upper part the second lower part changes each other."

Glenn Gould's recollections in 1982;
"'Healing' can be generated from the 30th variation. A listener or a performer can expect the Aria da Capo coming next to the Quodlibet, a very popular type of music. And listening to and playing the Quodlibet, people can feel liberation from their confined hearts like uncovering multilayered shells one by one."

"This is a great 'healing' for me. About these fifty years, I am always by the piano, and I have never been away from it. It has been a great pleasure for me to be with the piano, to play it or to be able to play it. But there has been a limit which I could never overcome. If J. S. Bach were alive now, he would compose and play splendidly whatever instruments, piano, cembalo, etc as he likes and make his own CDs. in that case, what is the meaning of the performance of Glenn Gould? This is a heavy and annoying question for me. Anyway, while playing the 30th variation, I don't know why, but I feel free from that burden."

"Actually J.S.Bach is a historical existence. What we have now are only his scores. So I intended to create an original work performed by Glenn Gould and composed by J.S.Bach. That should be the only reason of my existence, so I thought. This consciousness might make me hum unconsciously while playing. This humming was a surely Gould's original. From this point of view, many concert appearances would reduce this kind of originality. I was staying out of stages from the year 1964. I should be careful to avoid for me to be an automatic piano playing machine following programmed codes. If I were a violinist, a flutist or a singer, I would be more cheerful without annoying how to separate composer and performer."

"A musical work as an art should be proper when the score and its performance are integrated into one thing. In case of the Goldberg Variations, the condition was perfect. Because it is 'the variations composed by Bach and performed by Goldberg'. Now it should be 'the variations composed by Bach and performed by Gould'. So, it should be 'the Glenn Gould Variations'. I want people think like this way. Otherwise, 'the GouldBlend Variations' or 'the GouldBrag Variations' might be better."

http://www.geocities.jp/imyfujita/goldberg/part2e.html


Goldberg Variations BWV 988: Details
Recordings:
1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019
Comparative Review: Goldberg Variations on Piano:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Comparative Review: Round-Up of Goldberg Variations Recordings:
Recordings | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Reviews of Individual Recordings:
GV - R. Barami, J. Crossland, O. Dantone, D. Propper | GV - M. Cole | GV - J. Crossland | GV - E. Dershavina | GV - S. Dinnerstein | GV - R. Egarr [Lehman] | GV - R. Egarr [Satz] | GV - R. Egarr [Bright] | GV - Feltsman | GV- P. Hantai | GV - P. Hantaï (2nd) | GV - K. Haugsand | GV - A. Hewitt | GV - R. Holloway | GV- H. Ingolfsdottir | GV - J. Jando | GV - B. Lagacé | GV - G. Leonhardt | GV- K. Lifschitz | GV - A. Newman | GV - T. Nikolayeva 3rd | GV- J. Payne | GV - W. Riemer | GV - C. Rousset | GV - S. Schepkin, M. Yudina & P. Serkin | GV - A. Schiff [ECM] | GV- H. Small | GV - M. Suzuki | GV - G. Toth | GV - K.v. Trich | GV - R. Tureck [Satz] | GV - R. Tureck [Lehman] | GV- B. Verlet | GV - A. Vieru | GV - J. Vinikour | GV - A. Weissenberg | GV - Z. Xiao-Mei
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Quodlibet in GV | GV for Strings
Discussions of Individual Recordings:
GV - D..Barenboim | GV - P.J. Belder | GV - E. Dershavina | GV - S. Dinnerstein | GV - R. Egarr | GV - V. Feltsman | GV - C. Frisch | GV - G. Gould | GV - P. Hantaï | GV - R. Holloway | GV - J. Jando | GV - K. Jarrett | GV - G. Leonhardt | GV - V. Makin | GV - A. Newman | GV - S. Ross | GV - A. Schiff | GV - R. Schirmer | GV - H. Small | GV - G. Sultan | GV - G. Toth | GV - R. Tureck | GV - S. Vartolo | GV - B. Verlet
Article:
The Quodlibet as Represented in Bach’s Final Goldberg Variation BWV 988/30 [T. Braatz]

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Last update: ýMarch 25, 2006 ý17:49:53