This question has its origin in Why does the Open Goldberg score have a G rather than A in bar 9 of variation 25?. See that Q&A for background information.

At what time, and on what basis, was ornamentation corrected in the Goldberg Variations, Variation 25?

In the first edition of the Goldberg Variations, the first measure does not contain an ornamental D5 preceding the Bb5.

Goldberg variations, First edition, measure 1

However, in Glenn Gould's 1955 recording, he includes the ornament.

The ornament does appear in the handexemplar, but that was not discovered until 1974.

Goldberg variations, handexemplar, measure 1

How did Gould, in 1955, know about this ornament?

According to the editions available on IMSLP, the ornament was included as early as Czerny's ca. 1850 edition. But at what point was it first introduced, and on what basis?

Wanda Landowska, in 1933, made the first Goldberg recording. She does not include the ornament.

  • Perhaps the important question is, What missing links fill in the gap between the lost handexemplar and the 1850 Czerny? Is it simply a performance tradition that got transmitted? (I'm not sure of the reception history of the Goldberg Variations, but I suspect there's a bit of a gap...) Aug 21, 2021 at 16:40
  • @AndyBonner Yes, that's the essence of the question. Perhaps I should state it more directly?
    – Aaron
    Aug 21, 2021 at 16:48
  • 1
    Yeah, since the ornament appears in print by 1850 seems to me the inquiry is less about Gould and more about the paper trail (or not-paper trail?). A reception/performance history of the Goldberg Variations through the lens of a single ornament. The game is afoot! Aug 21, 2021 at 17:02
  • @AndyBonner Okay...cogitating. I put the focus on Gould thinking that would call more attention to the question. I'll revise...
    – Aaron
    Aug 21, 2021 at 17:04
  • There are still fascinating (separate) questions about Gould. I'm no expert, by my perception is he was little troubled with or limited by scholarship. Regardless of what happened to the ornament between 1741 and 1850, how did it come into his performance? Was he actually working from the Czerny (or a derived edition)? Does the ornament appear in recordings by earlier pianists? Aug 21, 2021 at 17:13

1 Answer 1


Apart from being in other readings as you noted, this is a typically baroque portamento ornamentation that lyrical solos (like those executed by singers) would quite often be expected to include by default. With an ornament immediately before and a long target note after a jump upwards, this is quite the location for this ornament.

Here the lead voice is clearly in the lyrical ballpark, so giving it this ornament is sort of a natural execution choice in baroque practice. Whether Gould made this choice independently of other readings or in acknowledgment of them is likely impossible to discern at this point of time.

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