I had long wanted to structure Good Friday's Three Hours around Bach's Goldberg Variations. At St James's we tend not to follow the pattern of the First Hour being the Liturgy of the Word, the second the Veneration of the Cross, the third Holy Communion but instead have three hours of silence, music, prayer and addresses.
Today, as soon as the clock had struck noon, there emerged from the stillness the Aria from the Bach Goldbergs, and it was repeated just before we concluded at 3pm (see top video right: Glenn Gould performing the Aria). Between them we heard four readings tracing Christ's Passion as told in the Gospels, marvellously delivered by Paul Brooke, sang hymns, listened to two addresses and also heard the Goldberg Variations 2, 13, 22, 15, 18, 19, 21 all brilliantly performed by James Sherlock. Interestingly, Glenn Gould commented on Variation 15: "It’s the most severe and rigorous and beautiful canon…the most severe and beautiful that I know, the canon in inversion at the fifth. It’s a piece so moving, so anguished—and so uplifting at the same time—that it would not be in any way out of place in the St. Matthew’s Passion; matter of fact, I’ve always thought of Variation 15 as the perfect Good Friday spell." I am grateful to James for putting me on to Jeremy Denk. See him in the second video commenting on Variation 15.
Glenn Gould - opening Aria
Jeremy Denk, commenting on and playing Variation 15 (NPR)
Another: Var. 15 with graphical score by Stephen Malinowski