In 1742, Johann Sebastian Bach gave his Goldberg Variations the simple title Piano exercise consisting of one aria with various variations – and it is a fascinating compendium of variations, canons and fugues. In 1993, the Swiss choreographer Heinz Spoerli accepted the challenge of meeting Bach's Opus summum for the piano with dance – and created one of his major works: a dance drama built out of music-making with the body about human beings, their joys and fears, loneliness and desires, allegiances and quarrels, youth and age.
As a Ballet Director, Heinz Spoerli made Basler Ballett, the Ballett der Deutschen Oper am Rhein and finally the Zürcher Ballett leading companies in Europe and created a comprehensive œuvre as a choreographer. He choreographed the Goldberg-Variationen in 1993 for his company in Düsseldorf. The Vienna State Ballet will present the work with a new stage and costume design devised especially for Vienna.
In choreographing to Bach's music, whose 30 variations on an aria reveal a remarkable sense of structure and an architecture that is almost mathematically precise, Heinz Spoerli let himself be inspired by hearing rather than studying the music, by emotional response rather than academic analysis. Composed in 1742 as a »piano exercise« and named after Bach's pupil Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, the composition offered Spoerli ideal scope to develop his »extended neoclassicism«: a virtuosic language of dance characterised by subtlety and clarity which did not feel the need to pursue abstraction but was also capable of telling the audience things without an explicit narrative. Horst Koegler described the Goldberg-Variationen as one of the works from Spoerli's »Bach ballet cathedral« which describes people and life in a series of poetic, choreographed images and scenes – a meeting, a farewell, anticipation and retrospection, happiness and grief. »For me, the Goldberg Variations are like the life that passes us by« is how Heinz Spoerli described his work: »There are relationships, couples are formed, and separations that lead back to neutrality. As in life, we get to know people, and then we drift apart again. […] Perhaps I can tell something about this passing each other and togetherness in this piece. It should create a choreographic arc that stretches from the beginning to our end.«
start from 17 min!