The Golberg Variations BWV 988 by J. S. Bach, is an excellent example of variations in the baroque period. It is a work of great proportions based on a theme titled Aria followed by 30 variations.

The Aria is in binary form. Each part is made of two phrases:

Here is the structure of the Aria:

All variations follow this structure (we will discuss minor variations later). Most sections have 16 measures, but in some variations, two measures are combined into one, so each section has only eight measures. In variation 16 (overture), part B has 32 measures. In this case, two 3/8 measures of part B correspond to one measure in the Aria.

The Aria or theme:

Shelley Katz, piano. Recording courtesy of MUSOPEN and Shelley Katz.


Some harmonic variations of the original are found. Here we compare the Aria and the first variation with variations marked in red:

Key G major D major
Measure 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 | 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Aria (theme) IVvi - vii / VVI - V / IViiVII - vii / reIiiVI - V / IVIV - iiVI
Variation 1 IVvi - V / VVIiiVIIiiiiiVIIV - iiVI

Measures 17 to 32:

Key G major E minor G major
Measure 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 | 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32
Aria (theme) VIVI - iiViVIii - ViiiIiiVI - V / IVIVVI
Variation 1 VIiv - iiViivV - vii/V - ViiiIiiVI - V / IVIV - V - vii/ii - iiV - I - VI

First Variation

Minor Mode Variations




  

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
José Rodríguez Alvira.