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J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) on Guitar, Including Videos by Glenn Gould and Jozsef Eotvos

Updated on April 19, 2012
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach | Source


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was one of the greatest composers of all time. His death in 1750 is generally considered to be the end of the Baroque era in music history. One of his most famous works is the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988), which were originally written for harpsichord.

The Aria to this piece is slow and beautiful, and each subsequent variation has a different feel. The Goldberg Variations became famous largely due to the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, who made two recordings of the piece during his life. In 1997 Jozsef Eotvos transcribed the entire piece for solo guitar. 

The remainder of this article includes videos (and links to CDs and sheet music) for the Goldberg Variations as played by Glenn Gould (piano) and Jozsef Eotvos (classical guitar).

Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg Variations BWV 988 (Aria + first few variations)

Jozsef Eotvos Playing Bach's Goldberg Variations BWV 988 (Aria + first few variations) on Guitar


Do you like how Bach's Goldberg Variations sound on guitar?

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    • profile image

      Derdriu 5 years ago

      Ari Lamstein, What magnificent, marvelous, monumental masterpieces are the Gould variations! It's so helpful how you begin with background to the composer and the transcription from the original musical instrument to classical guitar. It's great to have this done during my lifetime.

      Thank you for sharing, voted up + all,


    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      I've long been rather ashamed of my own ignorance concerning the greats of classical music, and their works. One of the greatest things about this site, and the entire internet is that web pages like this one exists for us all to either learn something from, or simply to enjoy.

      As a Southern boy brought up on Celtic, Folk, and Bluegrass I tend to most appreciate things with guitar, mandolin, and violin.

      Of course the classical guitar is approached very differently from most other music forms employing that instrument - but I used to spend time playing with an uncle who defected for the world of the nylon strings and the fingerstyle.

      Other than saying that it's beautiful to hear, which is obvious to most of us - I feel like I'm likely to say something dumb. In any case, thanks for the article; and keep them coming. I'll be having a look at your older ones as well as time permits.

    • Ari Lamstein profile image

      Ari Lamstein 6 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      @6 String Veteran,

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful commenet! Eotvos is from Hungary, so I assume that this is why he is not well known in the US. When I discovered this transcription and recording it really floored me - and it sounds like you had the same reaction.

      Thank you again for your support, it really helps to encourage me to continue writing Hubs!

    • 6 String Veteran profile image

      6 String Veteran 6 years ago

      I am very surprised I'm the first to post a comment on such a great hub. Well, I wont hesitate to accept that honor!

      Great, informative post and beautiful music. I'm no expert on Bach interpretations on classical guitar but I have heard John Williams and like his feel, pace, and the overall effect of his playing. I assume Eotvos is 'up there' as far as Bachian classical guitar goes (if not I am baffled). Again, his feel, tempo-choice--and obviously, technique--come together to produce a hypnotizing and mesmerizing performance; qualities I feel are essential for this style/period of music. His (Eotvos') playing is absolutely beautiful.