Aria variata alla maniera italiana

Aria variata alla maniera italiana

BWV 989 performed by Lars Ulrik Mortensen
at the Bartolotti House, Amsterdam

  • Menu
  • Aria
  • Variation 1
  • Variation 2
  • Variation 3
  • Variation 4
  • Variation 5
  • Variation 6
  • Variation 7
  • Variation 8
  • Variation 9
  • Variation 10

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Demons in the fingers

The runs in variation 9 are just like those at the ending of Pasquini's toccata

One of the greatest Italian keyboard players of Bach’s day was Bernardo Pasquini (1637-1710), who was known way beyond the borders of Italy. For instance, a student of medicine in Leiden wrote an excited letter in 1698 to a Scottish friend in Rome about “this great wonder of the world (i.e. Pasquini), who can play so fast he appears to have demons in his fingers” (ut haberet diabolum in digitis). The Amsterdam music publisher Estienne Roger – whose shop was just a ten-minute walk from the Bartolotti House, where this recording was made – published an edition of Toccates & suites pour le clavessin de messieurs Pasquini, Poglietti, & Gaspard Kerle in 1699.

Pasquini’s music was circulated in Germany as well. At the time, Bach was living and working in Weimar, where he studied and copied a lot of Italian music. It was the period when Bach arranged Vivaldi’s concertos for organ and harpsichord, for example BWV 592 and 593. Bach also avidly collected Italian harpsichord music, copying Frescobaldi’s Fiori musicali and a toccata and passacaglia by Pasquini. Maybe the aforementioned book of Toccates & suites was among the Italian music brought over from the Netherlands by his employer Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimar. In any case, Bach used the same inventiveness and virtuosity in the Aria variata alla maniera italiana, BWV 989. The dexterous parallel runs in variation 9, for example, are just like those at the ending of Pasquini’s toccata. After all, Bach could also play as if he had demons in his fingers.

Aria variata alla maniera italiana
harpsichord works
before 1714

Extra videos

Harpsichordist Lars Ulrik Mortensen

“This is the work from which the Goldberg Variations originate.”

Vocal texts




  • Release date
    16 November 2018
  • Recording date
    14 October 2017
  • Location
    Bartolotti House, Amsterdam
  • Harpsichordist
    Lars Ulrik Mortensen
  • Harpsichord
    Geert Karman after J.H. Gräbner, 1774
  • Director, camera and lights
    Gijs Besseling
  • Music recording
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt
  • Music edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera, lights
    Danny Noordanus
  • Data handling, camera and lighting assistant
    Eline Eestermans
  • Interview
    Onno van Ameijde, Marloes Biermans
  • Producer
    Jessie Verbrugh
  • Acknowledgement
    Vereniging Hendrick de Keyser

Help us to complete All of Bach

There are still many recordings to be made before the whole of Bach’s oeuvre is online. And we can’t complete the task without the financial support of our patrons. Please help us to complete the musical heritage of Bach, by supporting us with a donation!