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Are we 14 canons short of a full set? Goldberg #27

Alisdair Kitchen tosses a hand-grenade into the final handful.
alisdair kitchen
Variation 27 (Canon at the Ninth)

Writing a canon at the ninth comes with a physical limitation when writing for two hands alone: the parts are set too widely apart to accommodate an additional bass line, as has been the pattern in the previous eight canons. Not that this concession makes Variation 27 any easier; it is a true duet (Bach writes that this number should be played on two keyboards), decorated with some delightfully intricate ornamentation.


While this is officially the last canon, fans of strict imitative counterpoint should not despair! Readers who’ve followed this project from the beginning may remember me mentioning that in the 1970s, Bach’s personal copy of the first print of the Goldbergs was discovered… On the back cover, he sketched out 14 more canons on the bass theme (though restricting himself to the first eight notes of it only). One of these – entitled Canon Triplex – is a six voice beauty that was immortalised in the famous Haussmann portrait of Bach. That he chose to be painted with this canon indicates that it held some special significance… #twittergoldbergs enthusiasts can hear more about this in a podcast interview that I have made with Frances Wilson, due to be published on her blog in the coming days (


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