• Ben Lewis-Smith

A cure for insomnia: Bach's 'Goldberg Variations'

Updated: May 30, 2020

Written for the Russian ambassador to the electoral court of Saxony, Count Kaiserling, Bach's beautiful set of variations supposedly helped him drop off to sleep.

Johann Gottlieb Goldberg the German virtuoso harpsichordist performed for the count to sooth the sleepless nights. Herewith, according to Forkel writing in 1802:

"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."

Enjoy! Ben Lewis-Smith


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