Saturday, September 4, 2010
goldberg variations, part 2
While I'm still on the theme of proof by contrast, those who know ol' Golby should listen to this Handel chaconne. Despite obvious differences from the Goldberg Variations, most notably length and, well, quality, comparison is just too easy given the superficial similarities. A chaconne is like a continuous theme and variations light, and Handel treats theme and variation as most composers do: the harmonic progression stays the same more or less throughout, but the melodic rhythm increases steadily, with more and more "flourish" as the piece unfolds. There's also, as is customary, a couple of variations in minor. It's just unfortunate for Handel that he had to write the piece in G (the same key as Goldbergs) and make the opening progression identical to the opening progression in the Goldbergs. Because although the piece is lovely and all, it's a perfect illustration, by contrast, of Bach's genius. This piece, by another giant of the Baroque era, is so vastly inferior to the Goldberg variations in every possible respect, it's astounding. No one could listen to it without feeling the repetition; the variations are different, but only incidentally and ornamentally; there's little fundamental difference of melody, counterpoint, and overall character. In contrast, each variation in the Goldbergs has its own identity, and could stand on its own if it had to (even variations 11 and 18).