Jonathan Morton on Goldberg Variations: ternary patterns for insomnia

Jonathan Morton reflects on Scottish Ensemble’s long-running collaboration with Andersson Dance ahead of the return of Goldberg Variations: ternary patterns for insomnia.

27 February 2023

What first interested you about collaborating with Andersson Dance?  

I first met Örjan Andersson in London, he had come to hear Scottish Ensemble at Wigmore Hall and we had a chat afterwards. I felt straight away that this could be a fruitful relationship, the conversation flowed easily and pretty quickly we were talking about unusual ideas…

Goldberg Variations has toured all around the world, what has made it so widely popular?  

This is a question we have asked ourselves ever since we started performing this show! I think it’s difficult to put a finger on exactly what makes it so popular, but I think it has something to do with the way the different layers interact –  the interplay  between dancers and musicians, the way the audience is invited to feel at one with what’s happening on the stage, the juxtaposition of the sublime with everyday actions & objects, and  the vivid physical representation of the many strange and wonderful facets of Bach’s writing (including ones not necessarily brought to life in a normal concert performance, such as humour & obsessiveness)

Which was the most memorable venue or city where you have performed Goldberg Variations: ternary patterns for insomnia?  

I think I would say Stockholm, where we have performed Goldberg Variations: ternary patterns for insomnia twice (including the premiere), with a seven-year interval between both performances.  The contrast between the unforgettable trepidation and sheer terror of the first show, and the joyful, relaxed confidence we gained over the years is, for me, crystallised in those Stockholm performances.

Why now, after 7 years, is the show returning to Scotland? 

I think we all feel that this endeavour has been such a vital part of the recent developments that have shaped Scottish Ensemble into what it is today, and therefore it feels natural to bring it back to our home audiences in Scotland.  Also, the fact that Goldberg Variations: ternary patterns for insomnia has been performed so many times over the years (with more than 50 performances on 3 continents) – a pretty wild outcome that nobody could remotely imagine at the outset! – is something that I hope we can all celebrate together.


Do you think performing the piece in this way over all these years has changed how you hear it / feel it / play it? 

I would very much hope so! One of the many privileges of being able to revisit this work is the opportunity to revel in, and wonder at,  the seemingly endless possibilities contained within this enigmatic, spell-binding piece of music. Three voices, a repeated 32-chord sequence, endless invention!

Goldberg Variations- ternary patterns for insomnia, goes on tour in the UK from the 3rd till the 9th of March, with dates in Glasgow, Inverness, Dundee and Leeds.

Goldberg Variations

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