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New Arrangement by Repast for Baroque Ensemble

Johann Sebastian Bach

Amelia Roosevelt, baroque violin and viola
Emi Ferguson, baroque flute (traverso)
Katie Rietman, baroque cello and piccolo cello
Stephanie Corwin, baroque bassoon
Gabe Shuford, harpsichord

Performed on Period Instruments



"This arrangement and the performances here are wholly successful; they sound Bachian; Throughout, these are not pretentious, showy transcriptions. Rather, they let Bach's music speak for itself through finely wrought performances of idomatic, thoughtful arrangements."
James Maiello, Fanfare [Novembner/December 2019]
"While the Goldberg Variations have been recorded hundreds, if not thousands, of times before, this version sheds much light on one of Western art music’s greatest scores. Recommended."
Colin Clarke Fanfare [September/October 2019]
"Recorded sound is impressive."
Barker, American Record Guide [September/October 2019]
"not only does [this new arrangement] provide welcome aural relief, but it also facilitates hearing and understanding the music’s contrapuntal complexity. In this case, a dry and intimate production sound aids in that project as well. Recommended."
CD HotList for Libraries [July 2011]
"Repast does it again! The New York City-based ensemble...return to the scene of the crime with an infectious account of the Goldberg Variations...
the timbres of all [the] instruments are fresh and very attractive, enhancing the invigorating interaction of the players... "
Phil Muse, Atlanta Audio Society [April 2019]
“a graceful, energetic ensemble”
The New York Times
Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations were originally written as a piece for solo harpsichord, published in 1741 toward the end of his life. Consisting of an aria and 30 variations, they have been re-orchestrated for many different instrumental combinations. Why did Repast Baroque Ensemble decide to create our own new arrangement of Bach’s great masterpiece?

Bach has always been an inspiration for us. Our first concert, 14 years ago, was a performance of the composer’s Musical Offering. Since then, we have performed Bach’s sonatas for violin and harpsichord and for harpsichord and viola da gamba, as well as music by his predecessors and his sons. We have played numerous trio sonatas, including our own arrangements of his organ trios. For our performance of the Art of Fugue, which Bach wrote with unspecified instrumentation, we orchestrated the various pieces in the work.

Questions of instrumentation became more pertinent in 2015 when we added a bassoon to Repast’s core ensemble of violin, cello and harpsichord. Because of the limited existing repertoire for our new group of instruments, we started to create transcriptions of various pieces, sometimes augmenting our ensemble with guest musicians. Repast’s audiences have always enjoyed hearing the contrast between different instrumental combinations and solo pieces, so it occurred to us: Why not arrange the Goldberg Variations?

Our work on the project began in the same way it does on all of our new repertoire – by singing through the score. This process helped us hear which variations sounded “flute-like”, or which ones seemed more like arias for the violin. In the careful listening and analysis that followed, we came up with more detailed ideas. Looking at Variation 6, we thought that a viola would allow a more expansive lower range than a violin. Variation 16 (the French ouverture) sounded orchestral, so we doubled the violin and flute lines. We learned that Variation 25 (coined “the Black Pearl” by Wanda Landowska) would sound quietly vulnerable if we could push the piccolo cello and the bassoon to the top of their ranges. The late Renaissance, consort-like Variation 22 needed sustained sounds from winds and strings. As we rehearsed them, certain variations sounded better when we added continuo from the harpsichord. And in a moment of spontaneity, we added a pizzicato bass line for the cello in Variation 26 to balance out the violin accompaniment.

Other movements were clearly idiomatic for keyboard, so we left those alone. For the aria itself, we deliberated whether we should arrange it or not. But ultimately, the beauty of our harpsichordist’s performance convinced us to keep it as a solo harpsichord piece. We hope our new arrangement of the Goldberg Variations brings light to aspects of Bach’s art listeners may not yet have experienced. [Amelia Roosevelt, January 2019]

Since 2004, Repast has presented a concert series in New York City that engages audiences with innovative, thematic programs of great music – both known and unknown – from the Baroque period. The groups’ name, Repast – meaning a meal or a feast – plays off the idea that a concert should be delicious and satisfying. The core ensemble includes violin, cello, bassoon and harpsichord, which is regularly augmented with additional musicians to enable the performance of the widest possible variety of repertoire. Repast provides numerous engrossing chamber music programs on its concert series in Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as performances at the Miller Theatre’s Bach and the Baroque series and Bargemusic. Repast has also performed at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, Miami Bach Society, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Peak Performances in New Jersey, and other venues across the United States. The ensemble often collaborates with performing artists in other fields, such as their recent performances of Henry Purcell’s Chacony with the Richard Alston Dance Group. Repast’s musicians are also committed educators and have presented workshops and lecture-demonstrations at the College of William and Mary, Columbia University, the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music and Baruch College.

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Amelia Roosevelt
Violin made by Richard Duke, London, 1773
Viola made by Timothy Johnson, 2006, based on the “Conte Vitale” viola made by
Andrea Guarneri in 1676

Emi Ferguson
Traverso made by Martin Wenner, based on a Carlo Palanca traverso

Katie Rietman
Cello by William Forster, London, 1790. Piccolo cello by John Browne, London, 1722

Stephanie Corwin
Baroque bassoon made by Guntram Wolf (Kronach, Germany, 2007) based on an
original signed ‘HKICW’

Gabe Shuford
Harpsichord by William Dowd, 1980, based on a François-Étienne Blanchet model
Variation 1
Variation 2
Variation 3: Canone all’Unisono
Variation 4
Variation 5
Variation 6: Canone alla Seconda
Variation 7
Variation 8
Variation 9: Canone alla Terza
Variation 10: Fughetta
Variation 11
Variation 12: Canone alla Quarta
Variation 13
Variation 14
Variation 15: Canone alla Quinta in moto contrario
Variation 16: Ouverture
Variation 17
Variation 18: Canone alla Sesta
Variation 19
Variation 20
Variation 21: Canone alla Settima
Variation 22: Alla breve
Variation 23
Variation 24: Canone all’Ottava
Variation 25
Variation 26
Variation 27: Canone alla Nona
Variation 28
Variation 29
Variation 30: Quodlibet
Aria da capo

MSR Classics
Music of the Baroque REPAST …