Jorge Jiménez (ES)
Jorge Jiménez (ES)
Artist’s message to visitors
In 1996, I heard Bach's Goldberg Variations for the first time in Glen Gould's famous version on a simple cassette recorder. Since then, this wonderful composition has not let me go. At first, I resigned himself to the fact that as a violinist I would never be able to play this work. But over time I realised that several voices could sound at the same time on the violin, as Johann Sebastian Bach exemplifies in his six famous partitas and sonatas for solo violin. Finally, I set to work and began to transcribe one of the most complicated piano pieces of the Baroque into a piece for solo violin. This was like downsizing, like trying to fit all the furniture of the Palace of Versailles into a tiny, charming studio flat in the centre of Paris: One must choose the best pieces furniture and try to keep the feeling of the big room in the small new space.
My artistic mission
With more than 20 years of experience working with the best artists and ensembles in Europe, with great knowledge of this repertoire and exhausting all the technical possibilities of my instrument, I aim to export the best music and most exciting compositions to the language and sound world of the baroque violin and offer to the audiences a new way of listening to this music and instrument.
Recording: Radio Slovenija
Winemaker of Seviqc Brežice 2022 concerts: Family winery Jakončič, Kozana, Goriška Brda
Rethinking Bach: The Goldberg Variations transcribed for Solo violin
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750):
Clavier Ubung bestehend in einer ARIA mit verschiedenen Verænderungen vors Clavicimbal mit 2 Manualen. Denen Liebhabern zur Gemüths- Ergetzung verfertiget von Hrn. Johann Sebastian Bach Königl. Pohl. u. Churfl. Sæchs. Hoff-Compositeur, Capellmeister, u. Directore Chori Musici in Leipzig. Nürnberg in Verlegung Balthasar Schmids (BWV 988)
Variatio 1: a 1 Clav.
Variatio 2: a 1 Clav.
Variatio 3: Canone all'Unisono. a 1 Clav.
Variatio 4: a 1 Clav.
Variatio 5: a 1 ô vero 2 Clav.
Variatio 6: Canone alla Seconda. a 1 Clav.
Variatio 7: a 1 ô vero 2 Clav. Al tempo di Giga Variatio 8: a 2 Clav.
Variatio 9: Canone alla Terza. a 1 Clav.
Variatio 10: Fughetta. a 1 Clav.
Variatio 11: a 2 Clav.
Variatio 12: a 1 Clav. Canone alla Quarta. a 1 Clav.
Variatio 13: a 2 Clav.
Variatio 14: a 2 Clav.
Variatio 15: Canone alla Quinta. a 1 Clav. Andante
Variatio 16: Ouverture. a 1 Clav.
Variatio 17: a 2 Clav.
Variatio 18: Canone alla Sesta. a 1 Clav.
Variatio 19: a 1 Clav.
Variatio 20: a 2 Clav.
Variatio 21: Canone alla Settima. a 1 Clav.
Variatio 22: a 1 Clav. alla breve
Variatio 23: a 2 Clav.
Variatio 24: Canone all'Ottava. a 1 Clav.
Variatio 25: a 2 Clav. Adagio
Variatio 26: a 2 Clav.
Variatio 27: Canone alla Nona. a 2 Clav.
Variatio 28: a 2 Clav.
Variatio 29: a 1 ô vero 2 Clav.
Variatio 30: Quodlibet. a 1 Clav.
Aria da Capo
Once Upon a Piece
In 1996 I heard Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” for the first time. The sounds of the legendary version by Glenn Gould, coming from my humble cassette player, have lived inside my head ever since. The vast range of feelings that the piece produced in me was tempered by the realisation that, as a violinist and not a keyboard player, I would never achieve playing this most iconic of works myself. But one can always dream …
Years later, it became clear to me that, although the violin is a melodic instrument by nature, many composers (especially Bach) wrote for it in a way that enhanced its possibilities, making it sound almost like a polyphonic instrument, like a harpsichord or an organ. So even though on a violin one cannot "really" play more than two melodies at once, in Bach’s 6 Soli, or the famous Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, the composer becomes a master of illusion: he creates the effect that three or even four voices are sounding at the same time.
Eventually, I set myself to the task: I started transcribing one of the most complicated pieces for the keyboard from the eighteenth century into a piece for solo violin. It was madness.
Imagine trying to fit all the furniture of Versailles Palace into a beautiful, tiny one-bedroom attic in Rue Lafayette: one would have to choose the best items and aim to keep the same feel of the big space in a smaller one. As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote: “It seems that perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away”. Very soon, I realised that I might have started a lifetime project.
There is more to the Goldbergs than just incredible music.
As with Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, one of the most puzzling things about Bach’s Goldberg Variations is the mystery behind them. The legend of how the Variations came to be composed comes from an early biography of Bach by music theorist Johann Nikolaus Forkel (Über Johann Sebastian Bachs Leben, Kunst, und Kunstwerke, 1802).
Forkel writes: For this work, we must thank the instigation of the former Russian ambassador to the electoral court of Saxony, Count Kaiserling, who often stopped in Leipzig and brought there with him his young harpsichordist Goldberg, to have him given musical instruction by Bach. The Count was often ill and had sleepless nights. At such times, Goldberg, who lived in his house, had to spend the night in an antechamber, to play for him during his insomnia. ... Once the Count mentioned in Bach's presence that he would like to have some clavier pieces for Goldberg, which should be of such a smooth and somewhat lively character that he might be a little cheered up by them in his sleepless nights. Bach thought himself best able to fulfil this wish through Variations, the writing of which he had until then considered an ungrateful task on account of the repeatedly similar harmonic foundation. But since at this time all his works were already models of art, such also these variations became under his hand. Yet he produced only a single work of this kind. Thereafter the Count always called them his variations. He never tired of them, and for a long-time sleepless nights meant: 'Dear Goldberg, do play me one of my variations.' Bach was perhaps never so rewarded for one of his works as for this. The Count presented him with a golden goblet filled with 100 Louis-d’Ors. Nevertheless, even had the gift been a thousand times larger, their artistic value would not yet have been paid for.
Forkel wrote his biography in 1802, more than 60 years after the Variations were composed, and its veracity has been questioned. However, isn’t there something mysteriously appealing about legends?
Years before writing the Goldberg Variations, Bach was employed as Kapellmeister for Prince Leopold in Köthen. A position he held between 1717 and 1723. Prince Leopold was a generous patron and friend, and this prestigious and comfortable position gave Bach the gift of time to focus on his beloved wife Maria Barbara and their young family.
Prince Leopold, frail since boyhood, took the waters in Karlsbad every summer on the advice of his doctors. On at least two occasions he took Bach and members of his Kapelle orchestra with him. No doubt he did so to enhance his prestige amongst the other wealthy patrons of the spa, which became one of the first regular summer festivals of the performing arts.
It was in 1720, during the second trip to Karlsbad when possibly the greatest tragedy of Bach’s life occurred: an urgent message was sent from his home, but the prince’s staff intercepted it and told Bach nothing. After all, it would not do to inconvenience Prince Leopold by giving the Kapellmeister some reason to go home. The message said that Bach’s wife, Maria Barbara was gravely ill and unlikely to recover. It took Bach another six weeks to head for home and he only heard of his beloved wife’s death when he walked through his front door. Maria Barbara had already been buried. Bach never travelled again.
As I write these words, the world slowly recovers from the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, my thoughts turn to musicians. Lynn H. Hough said: “life is a journey, not a destination”. Doesn’t it need to be a bit of both, though? A musician’s journey often starts in childhood with a love for music. That feeling of coming alive when playing, a desire to make the world a better place, transforming it through the power of music. But what does it all mean without its destination: the audience? Hours, months, years of preparation came to a standstill due to the imposed restrictions. The world has changed during this silence, and we now must somehow find our way back into a landscape that’s hard to recognise.
Johann Sebastian Bach was well acquainted with death, loss, and grieving. The fact that he was still able to give us such a world of inspiring, transparent, uplifting and consoling music is a powerful testament to the human spirit. It gives me hope.
The Aria is the piece from which all 30 Goldberg Variations spring. It’s is like being at home, holding someone you love very tight whispering that everything is going to be all right … It’s based on a ground bass, a circular set of sounds that never stop, that sound like they have been going since the dawn of time.
Then, the Variations start: they are a heavenly set of dances, canons and overall, Bach’s counterpoint at its best. In the same way the Ciaccona from Bach's Partita BWV 1004 divides the iconic set of Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin in two, Variation 15 brings the first half of the Goldbergs to its equator in the most dramatic way: Dark melodies, falling sighs in one voice answered by rising supplications in the other, rich but not over ornamented: all joined together in an epic conclusion of unforgettable sadness. When we reach the end of the Variations, Bach sends us back to the Aria: like returning home after time away - the music feels wonderfully familiar and yet, after our journey through the variations, we hear it with a fresh and heightened awareness.
17 months after the death of his wife Maria Barbara, Johann Sebastian Bach remarried. His bride was the soprano Anna Magdalena Wilcke, who rather unusually continued her career as a professional singer after getting married. She created a musical home for them where the entire Bach family would often sing and play with visiting friends and touring musicians. In this way, Bach’s new home in Leipzig became a vibrant musical centre.
Historians have long said that the couple’s shared interest in music contributed to their happy marriage. Anna Magdalena regularly helped Johann Sebastian as a copyist, transcribing his music by hand. Bach wrote several compositions dedicated to her, as contained in the celebrated collection called the Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach.
Years before Bach published the Goldberg Variations, the Aria appears in one of these notebooks. It was originally assumed that the Aria was a gift for her - but could it have been a gift from Anna Magdalena to her husband?
In 2014 Bach scholar Martin Jarvis, from the Charles Darwin University in Australia, came up with the revolutionary theory that Anna Magdalena Bach might have been the actual composer of the Aria. Forensic examiners of the notebooks backed the theory, saying they were sure "within a reasonable degree of scientific certainty" that Anna Magdalena most likely wrote this Aria, amongst other pieces, including the Cello Suites.
These claims have since been unanimously dismissed by Bach scholars and performers. However, as you might have guessed, I’m a lover of good stories and we all know that behind a great man there is often a great woman.
Jorge Jiménez, February 2022
Brežice, Brežice Castle
Brežice Castle is a splendid example of fortified Renaissance castle architecture on a plain with four mighty round defence towers and spacious courtyard. Interior of fortified castle has lavished baroque paintings.