Johann Sebastian Bach – The Goldberg Variations, BWV 988
According to legend, this monumental work was written for one of Bach’s students, who played it to soothe and entertain his insomniac master. Starting with a beautiful Aria, The Goldberg Variations travel through 30 variations, exploring many different characters. The Goldberg Variations are regarded as the most serious and ambitious compositions ever written for keyboard. It is the largest keyboard piece published during the Baroque period. For all their lyricism, tragic passion and exuberance, the Aria and the Variations seem of a divine substance entirely refined and purified of anything personal or ignoble.
“There is something in it of divinity more than the ear discovers: it is a Hieroglyphical and shadowed lesson of the whole world and creatures of God; such a melody to the ear, as the whole world, well understood, would afford the understanding. In brief, it is a sensible fit of that harmony which intellectually sounds in the ears of God.”
– Sir Thomas Browne