Aria variata (alla maniera italiana) in A Minor, BWV 989

Today at Song of the Day for Today, it’s Classical Sunday, a weekly feature that’s been a tradition here since July 2020 after a suggestion from one of my brothers. Last week we skipped this segment as we were in the middle of exploring the full album Dark Little Ones (2023) by my son, Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Kieran West.

A classical performer of note that I haven’t previously posted about is the Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gould (1932-1982). Despite his short life, Gould was one of the most highly-regarded pianists of the 20th century. A child prodigy, his adult life was very private and he was known to be eccentric, which I suppose added to the mystique of the man and musician — though his musical brilliance is his lasting legacy and a source of pride for Canadians.

While Gould’s recording repertoire was expansive, he favoured the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), along with that of some 20th-century composers. He tended to avoid music of the Romantic era.

Bach wrote the Aria variata (alla maniera italiana) in A Minor, BWV 989, around 1709. It is composed of a theme (the aria) and ten variations of that theme. The “alla maniera italiana” part of the title refers to its styling after works by the Italian composers Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643) and Bernardo Pasquini (1637-1710).

The recording featured today comes from Sony Classical’s The Glenn Gould Collection, Glenn Gould – Bach Vol. 5, released posthumously in 2012.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here.

Please enjoy the audio from the Glenn Gould YouTube channel:

It is interesting to note the differences in playing times for various musicians’ interpretations of a piece. In the above YouTube audio, Gould plays today’s selection in nine minutes and thirty-nine seconds. Another rendition of this work, played by Icelandic pianist Vikingur Olafsson in the video below, clocks in at 15:24.

Yet another version, played on the harpsichord, lasts over 18 minutes! I haven’t listened to this instrument for some time, and quite enjoyed this video version though I acknowledge the period instruments (or original instruments) sound isn’t for everyone… I was quite taken with period instrument recordings back when collecting records in the 1980s.

With my best wishes and kudos if you made it this far, listening to all the audio and videos I embedded here today! (And if you did, which did you prefer? Let me know your thoughts in the comments… or just say “hi!”)


2 thoughts on “Aria variata (alla maniera italiana) in A Minor, BWV 989

  1. A challenge for someone like me – thoroughly unacquainted with classical music. I liked Gould the best. The harpsichord … I found the sound fascinating.
    I imagine how your world was so different from mine .. I am not complaining .. just pondering.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Bill. There’s a lot that I don’t know about classical music as well; I learn a fair bit from reading up on the compositions I post. (I also learned a lot from one of my brothers who used to play a lot of classics for me when we’d meet up for an evening. We don’t seem to listen to as much of it when together nowadays.

      Yes, I suppose each life is quite different. I think that’s what attracts us to others… the opportunity to see things from different perspectives.


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