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Jeremy Denk vs. The Goldberg Variations: The Musical DNA

Jeremy Denk discusses the Aria from Bach's Goldberg Variations. (NPR)

What makes Bach's Goldberg Variations tick? Pianist Jeremy Denk has a few ideas. From the comfort of his living room piano, he reveals how Bach's musical DNA — a simple strand of bass notes — is fleshed out into the beautiful melody that feeds the Goldbergs.

Oddly enough, Bach just may have gotten his idea for the Goldbergs from a piece by Handel. And in what Denk calls one of the greatest instances of "musical one-upmanship," Bach blew Handel out of the water by creating a set of variations (on the same 8 bass notes) so extraordinary in their scope they've remained a milestone in the history of Western music.

Credits

Produced by Mito Habe-Evans and Tom Huizenga; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Production Assistance: Amanda Ameer and Anatasia Tsioulcas; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Keith Jenkins

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