Virtual Goldberg Variations

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Tafelmusik premieres excerpts from Elisa Citterio’s new orchestral arrangement of Bach’s The Goldberg Variations

Toronto, April 30, 2020 … Tafelmusik takes the music of Bach online with newly recorded excerpts of the Goldberg Variations in an original orchestral arrangement by Music Director Elisa Citterio. Originally scheduled for live performance earlier this month, the world premiere of Citterio’s arrangement of Bach’s masterpiece was to be a major highlight of Tafelmusik’s 2019/20 season, before the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of several concerts. This short video offers a peek at the larger work, which Tafelmusik hopes to present live in its entirety at a future concert.

In their own homes, Tafelmusik musicians recorded the first and final variations (#1 and #30), which Citterio scored for strings, winds, and continuo. These excerpts will be premiered on Friday May 1, 2020 on as part of #TafelmusikTogether. Launched on March 17, this digital initiative invites music lovers to gather virtually on Tafelmusik’s Instagram, Facebook and YouTube channels for short performances and other artistic content being shared daily from musicians’ living rooms.

Bach’s Goldberg Variations were written as an exercise in keyboard virtuosity and remain among the most technically demanding works ever written for harpsichord. Citterio first imagined the idea of a new arrangement in 2017, when Tafelmusik performed orchestral transcriptions of two excerpts from The Goldberg Variations during a tour of its multimedia program J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation.

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Citterio’s personal connection to the music was a powerful stimulus for this arrangement. “Since my teenage years, Bach’s Goldberg Variations is music that has been present at all the crucial moments of my life,” said Citterio. “It’s been especially comforting to return to this music during the unprecedented situation that we are all experiencing. The enduring, timeless nature of Bach’s music grounds us and reminds us of our shared humanity. The musicians of Tafelmusik wanted to come together to offer a little taste of our preparations for the pre-empted Goldbergs premiere. I hope that our digital performance will bring joy and help people feel a little less isolated.”

On April 14, Tafelmusik launched the Keep Tafelmusik Together campaign with the goal of raising $250,000 before June 30, 2020. This appeal will help Tafelmusik musicians and team members to continue to work on new initiatives, like #TafelmusikTogether, and prepare for the 2020/21 season.

Donations can be made online at Subscriptions for Tafelmusik’s 2020/21 season, Passions of the Soul, are available at

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Led by Music Director Elisa Citterio, Tafelmusik is one of the world’s leading period-instrument ensembles, performing on instruments and in styles appropriate for the era of the music. Renowned for dynamic, engaging, and soulful performances, Tafelmusik performs some 80 concerts each year for audiences across Toronto, and is Canada’s most toured orchestra, having performed in more than 350 cities in 32 countries. The orchestra is often joined by the critically acclaimed Tafelmusik Chamber Choir and its director, Ivars Taurins.

Tafelmusik also seeks to transport audiences to the baroque and classical periods through insightful multimedia programs and adventurous cross-cultural collaborations. Our musicians share their knowledge and experience through comprehensive education and artist-training initiatives such as the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer and Winter Institutes. Tafelmusik’s recordings on the Sony, CBC Records, Analekta, and Tafelmusik Media labels have garnered ten JUNOs and numerous international recording prizes.

Tafelmusik wishes to thank the following for their generous support: BMO Financial Group, RBC Foundation, KPMG, Catherine and Maxwell Meighen Foundation, Whitmer Trudel Charitable Foundation, The Pluralism Fund, Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, Classical 96.3 FM, and NOW Magazine. Tafelmusik is a proud partner of the Bloor St. Culture Corridor.


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