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In the Open Goldberg score of Bach's Goldberg-Variationen (edited by Werner Schweer, peer-reviewed on MuseScore), which can be found on IMSLP, in bar 9 of Variation 25, the 6th note in the right hand is a G. However, other scores that I've seen have an A, and every performance I've heard uses an A.

Is the G a typo, or is there some evidence that Bach intended a G?

2 Answers 2

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TL;DR

It's an error.

The Evidence

Here is the measure in question from the first edition of the Goldberg Variations.1 Note that it includes the A rather than G.

Goldberg Variations, First edition, variation 25, measure 9

What establishes this as correct is the existence of the handexemplar — an annotated version of the first edition, in Bach's handwriting.2 Here is the same measure from that edition. Notice there are no annotations or corrections.

Goldberg Variations, handexemplar, variation 25, measure 9

However, to reinforce things, Bach did make other annotations elsewhere in variation 25. For example, in the first measure, a tempo indication and several ornaments were added.

Here again is the first edition:

Goldberg Variations, First edition, variation 25, measure 1

And the handexemplar:

Goldberg Variations, handexemplar, variation 25, measure 1

Some additional corroboration is offered by the Henle Goldberg Variations, revised edition (1978), which was produced in light of the discovery of the handexemplar. The commentary on Variation 25 makes no mention of measure 9.3


1All images taken from ISMLP.

2The handexemplar surfaced in 1975 in a private collection and is currently held by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. The annotations are discussed in detail in Christoph Wolff's 1976 article "Bach's 'Handexemplar' of the Goldberg Variations: A New Source", Journal of the American Musicological Society 29/2: 224–41.

3The Preface, which mentions the handexemplar, and the Commentary, can both be found on the Henle website.

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Even the accompanying recording uses an A there:

Furthermore, the G doesn't make a lot of sense. It's an error.

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  • 2
    I've never known Bach to have any reservations about duplicating / interrupting a note.<g> But even so, Variation 25 is specified for a two-manual instrument, so an "interrupted" G wouldn't be a problem.
    – Aaron
    Aug 21, 2021 at 3:13
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    Ah, good point. I'll take that out. It still makes little sense musically.
    – phoog
    Aug 21, 2021 at 3:47

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