||The Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, is a work originally for harpsichord by Johann Sebastian Bach, consisting of an aria and a set of 30 variations. First published in 1741, the work is considered to be one of the most important examples of variation form. The Variations are named after Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, who may have been the first performer. They form a pivotal point in Bach’s work, being the first in a series of more abstract, theoretically oriented works which are typical of the last ten years of his life and include the Canonische Variaties, the Musicalisches Opfer and Die Kunst der Fuge.
The tale of how the Goldberg variations came to be composed comes from an early biography of Bach by Johann Nikolaus Forkel:
[For this work] we have to thank the instigation of the former Russian ambassador to the electoral court of Saxony, Count Kaiserling, who often stopped in Leipzig and brought there with him the aforementioned Goldberg, in order to have him given musical instruction by Bach. The Count was often ill and had sleepless nights. At such times, Goldberg, who lived in his house, had to spend the night in an antechamber, so as to play for him during his insomnia. … Once the Count mentioned in Bach's presence that he would like to have some clavier pieces for Goldberg, which should be of such a smooth and somewhat lively character that he might be a little cheered up by them in his sleepless nights. Bach thought himself best able to fulfill this wish by means of Variations, the writing of which he had until then considered an ungrateful task on account of the repeatedly similar harmonic foundation. But since at this time all his works were already models of art, such also these variations became under his hand. Yet he produced only a single work of this kind. Thereafter the Count always called them his variations. He never tired of them, and for a long time sleepless nights meant: 'Dear Goldberg, do play me one of my variations.' Bach was perhaps never so rewarded for one of his works as for this. The Count presented him with a golden goblet filled with 100 louis-d'or. Nevertheless, even had the gift been a thousand times larger, their artistic value would not yet have been paid for.
Forkel wrote his biography in 1802, more than 60 years after the events related, and its accuracy has been questioned. The lack of dedication on the title page also makes the tale of the commission unlikely. Goldberg's age at the time of publication (14 years) has also been cited as grounds for doubting Forkel's tale, although it must be said that he was known to be an accomplished keyboardist and sight-reader. In a recent book-length study,keyboardist and Bach scholar Peter Williams contends that the Forkel story is entirely spurious. (from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldberg_Variations)
Having loved playing Bach's Sinfonias (three part inventions) together with two colleagues on three alto flutes, I was inspired to arrange this work for concert, alto and bass flutes. The original keys (G major & g minor) are maintained throughout. There’s no addition of either dynamics or articulation. It’s up to the performers to use their knowledge, insight and good taste in applying these.