Aria da Capo

  • songfacts ®
  • This piece is from Goldberg Variations, which consists of a repeated aria and 30 short variations composed for keyboard by the German Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach. "Da capo" means "from the head" or "from the beginning" and "Aria Da Capo" is a note for note repeat of the aria at the beginning of the Variations. It is thought that Bach did not compose the aria itself, but adapted it from a now-untraceable French keyboard dance.
  • Music scholars believe that The Goldberg Variations was commissioned by Count Kaiserling, the Russian Ambassador at the court of Dresden, to be played by Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, his chamber musician. Count Kaiserling suffered from insomnia and he wanted some music that would be 'soft and yet a little gay' to help him sleep. Bach's sedative appears to have done the trick as in gratitude the insomniac Russian gave Bach a golden goblet filled with 100 gold pieces.
  • The best known version of the Goldberg Variations was by Canadian pianist Glenn Gould in 1955. It was his first major recording and initially there was some concern at his record company as to whether this was the most appropriate piece to record. However, the finished product received phenomenal praise and was among the best-selling classical music albums of its time.
  • Hannibal Lecter is the infamous fictional serial killer portrayed by Anthony Hopkins and he is portrayed as being notably fond of Bach's Goldberg Variations. Glenn Gould's recording of this piece was used during the opening credits of Hannibal and also a tape of the same work was played while Lecter killed the two guards in The Silence of the Lambs.

    The structure of the award-winning 1993 movie Thirty Two Short Films about Glenn Gould is based around the Goldberg Variations.

    The opening Aria from Goldberg Variations features on the soundtrack of the 1996 movie, The English Patient.
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