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Johann Sebastian Bach
The Goldberg Variations · BWV 988

Fourteen Canons on the First Eight Notes
of the Goldberg Ground
- BWV 1087

Programmed for MIDI Synthesizer
by David J. Grossman

Coming soon on Compact Disc

updated October 5, 1998     (Please excuse the typo's. I'll proofread this later)

Many of the visitors to this site are aware of my MIDI sequence of the Goldberg Variations. It seems to be the most popular MIDI file at this site. It is also my favorite and I have spent hundreds of hours refining it over the past year and a half. It has been thoroughly checked for errors by myself and two good friends of mine, Dr. Yo Tomita and Tom Hubeart Jr. I am confident that this sequence is at least 99.99% accurate. The ornamentation has been thoroughly scrutinized and implemented using ideas from Frederick Neumann's indispensable text: Ornamentation in Baroque and Post-Baroque Music With Special Emphasis on J.S. Bach. I have strived to make this sequence as close to the score as possible and to use ornamentation that I feel was what Bach had intended ( if that is even possible ). I have found that each of the variations flow together nicely when the tempos are set to values that are simple ratios of a base value. In this case, 100 beats per minute. With this in mind, each variation flows into the next with no pause except in the cases where a fermata is indicated. This gives the work a unity which is rare in human performances. This was part of the impetus behind Glenn Gould's 1981 recording of the Goldberg Variations.

I have chosen not to add any dynamics to the sequence other than what is called for explicitly or implicitly by the score. I was looking for a logical rendering of this work that would represent a prototype of the Goldberg Variations. I have often considered going through the sequence and modifying the tempos, volume, and durations of the notes to suit my tastes but I quickly found that these tastes changed every time I heard the work. Each time I listened to my 'prototype' I found another way of listening to it. Ideas for phrasing I had thought of in previous listenings were superceded by new ones. I could hear these variations ( no pun intended ) of phrasing and execution in my head when listening to my sterile MIDI sequence better than I could with even my favorite recorded versions ( of which I own many ). I now find that I enjoy my MIDI version almost more than recorded versions. I get to decide how the phrasing should be.

I now have a new computer which has a Hewlett-Packard CD-Writer Plus installed. I can make my own CD's and have been thinking about recording my MIDI version on CD and selling it via this web site. The CD version would be based on a new, updated version of my current sequence. The sequence will be rendered using a SoundBlaster AWE64 sound card which has the capability of being able to load sound samples into its memory to be used as instrument patches. I have not decided which instrument patch to use yet. I am leaning towards using a synthesized 'lead-bass' patch ( basically a sawtooth wave ) which has a nice tone. I have generated 3 CD's using this patch and my most recent version of the sequence and am very happy with the result. I plan on giving these to friends to get some feedback. The final release version of the CD will also include the 14 Canons on the first Eight Notes of the Goldberg Ground which were discovered in 1974 with an original printed edition of the Goldberg Variations owned by Bach. However, since my CD-ROM burner can only handle up to 74 minutes ( actually about 73 for some reason ), I will have to wait to include these. When I have the CD's made professionally, they can fit about 77 minutes which would be plenty of room.

I would like to gauge public opinion on this project so I can decide whether to proceed or not. Having the CD's made will be quite an investment. I will have to borrow money to get it going and I want to make sure that I can sell enough CD's to make my money back in a reasonable amount of time. I plan on selling the CD's for $10 each possibly adding $2 for shipping. They will be sold pretty much exclusively at this site. The proceeds of the sales will go to help pay for my new computer which I have invested quite a bit of money into and which I am paying a lot of interest on.

If you've read this far then you must be interested or at least curious. Please let me know what you think about this idea by writing me via my e-mail page. If you are interested in hearing this recording ( whatever version I happen to have recorded at the time ), let me know. At some point, I will probably make 10 or so CD's to send out to people to get their reactions. I will choose people based on diverse experience and tastes so please include some info about your interests in Bach. It doesn't matter whether you are an expert or a novice. I need differing opinions.



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