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The bottom line is what I'm talking about. They're interleaved and I'm playing it on one piano (though it's written for two). I've been doing 2/3 in each hand, with the left hand over the right, near the top of the keys. I feel like a T-rex playing it. Any other ideas?

  • I don't see the problem? There's only one staff for one piano, so it should be playable. Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 12:03
  • 2
    @Raskolnikov I don't see how "one staff for one piano" is a good justification for whether it's playable. You could (potentially) cram a bunch of stuff onto one staff (see Fairies Aire and Death Waltz =P). Also, ash mentions in the question that it's written for two pianos. Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 12:41
  • @Jadarnel: but I only see the part for one of the pianos. So, I still don't see the problem. If he also wants to play what the other piano does, maybe he should put the score for the second piano too. Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 15:37
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    Actually, I just checked on the Goldberg variations. There are no two pianos. There's just one clavichord, but the clavichord for the 23rd variation has two manuals (i.e. keyboards). Still, the particular passage ash is referring to should be doable on an ordinary piano. Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 15:39
  • Here's a video that shows it's perfectly possible. I think the passage ash refers to is played around 1:12. Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 15:41

5 Answers 5


I think you have effectively answered your own question.

I think if it is playable, it doesn't matter if you look like a T-Rex, as your alternative is to shift one part up or down an octave - which will change the flavour. Could be worth a try though - might sound interesting.

  • 1
    Gasp! Moving octaves! You blaspheme!
    – rxmnnxfpvg
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 0:13
  • Have to downvote, sorry--the Goldberg variations were written for a solo clavichord with two manuals. If OP's post was a two-piano arrangement, there would be two grand staffs.
    – NReilingh
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 0:25
  • Ooo - good point @NReilingh. I just took the OP's post at face value and didn't really think about the staffs.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 7:54

why so many answers say clavichord? this was originally intended for harpischord, where you might (or might not) have had two manuals (keyboards). of course, it can be played on organ, clavichord, and piano, but easily works on one keyboard.

It's a bit awkward. You have to plan out the choreography, but it really isn't terribly difficult. One hand plays nearer the fallboard, the other farther out on the keys... maybe some creative use of long fingers (2-4) in places... hand underneath has a low wrist and the top hand reaches over. relax... watch for tension.. figure out which hand is on top (right) and just work it out so you always play it the same each time.


For me this isn't terribly difficult. Play the lower staff with the left hand, the upper staff with the right. I use 2 and 4 in each hand since they are more even in length. However, I might change that to take the F# in the left hand with 3.

Play right hand over left, not left over right. It's harder to hit the G# in the right hand when reaching under than it is to hit the F# in the left reaching under. (Try it for yourself.) Play the right hand white keys up towards the fallboard, putting your fingers between black keys. Play the left hand out towards the edge of the keyboard, reaching in slightly to take the F#.

See how that works for you. :)


Two general principles I use for fingerings, relevant here:

  • Finger in terms of hand positions, minimizing the number of shifts
  • Retain fingerings across patterns

And for this passage:

  • Keep the more stationary hand (left) high and close to the fallboard, giving the "moving" hand more vertical and horizontal (toward and away from the body) space.

So, my fingering for this passage, grouped according to hand positions:

 5 3 5 3  5 3 | same |  5 3  3 5 3 5
 3 2 3 1  3 1 | as   |  3 2  1 3 1 3
1 1 1 1  3 3  | prev | 3 3  3 1 3 1
3 3 3 3  5 5  | bar  | 5 5  5 3 5 3

a 2 clav.

"Clav." is short for "clavier", a generic term for a keyboard (i.e., single manual), as opposed to "clavichord". So "a 2 clav." means the variation is intended for an instrument with two manuals.


A few points:

-Play right hand on top of left, not the other way around. The hand that moves more should usually be on top in passagework like this.

-Use long fingers, ideally on both hands, but especially the hand on top.

-The way the music looks on the page is deceiving. In this case, both hands should probably be played equally staccato. This makes it even easier.

-Remember that the Romantic ideal of legato did not exist in Baroque music. When we consider fingerings for this music, things are often much more "disjunct" than we'd expect, if our reference is Beethoven and later.

-This is not a terribly difficult example of hands running into each other in Bach. It's been a long time since I've played this piece on the harpsichord, so I don't remember if this passage should be on separate manuals... regardless, it's perfectly do-able on one.

Hope this helps. The long fingers and staccato for both hands should solve your problem.

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