Scottish Ensemble and Andersson Dance present
Goldberg Variations - ternary patterns for insomnia
• London premiere of cross-artform collaboration at the Barbican Centre
• Stunningly different interpretation of one of classical music’s most loved works
• Limited run from 5-7 July 2018
• Tickets available at

Eleven musicians. Five dancers. Choreographed together as one in a new interpretation of the J.S. Bach masterpiece.

Following its success in Scotland, Washington DC and Shanghai, Scottish Ensemble is excited to bring its music-and-dance collaboration with Andersson Dance to the Barbican Centre for its London premiere from 5-7 July 2018.

Featuring 11 musicians and 5 dancers, audiences will witness a new, 21st-century interpretation of J.S. Bach’s iconic masterpiece, in which both musicians and dancers are choreographed together as one single entity. This idea – to take a string ensemble that performs standing up, and with movement part of their performing DNA, and match them with a dance company with the performance of classical music at its heart – sounded deceptively simple.

When the Artistic Directors of both companies, Jonathan Morton and Orjan Andersson, met for the first time in London, they knew immediately that they wanted to take it a step further: rather than have musicians only performing the music, they took the ambitious decision to choreograph musicians and dancers as one.

Bach’s Goldberg Variations, with its myriad textures, moods and forms, provided the rich musical material that is the basis of the collaboration. Published in 1741 as an aria and set of 30 variations for harpsichord, the piece remains today one of the most well-known and most celebrated pieces ever written – praised in 1802 by Bach’s first biographer Nicolas Forkel as “the model according to which all variations should be made”, and widely considered to sum up the entire history of the Baroque variation, in the way that Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations does for the Classical era.

What drew both Jonathan and Orjan to this work, however, was that is it also one of the most interpreted. From theories that its structure deliberately mirrors the ascent of the nine spheres of Ptolemaic cosmology, to the claim that the whole thing is a cleverly coded rebuke to a critic who had snubbed the composer, there is something about this sprawling, complex piece which has invited interpretation since its composition – and this collaboration adds another one. By taking the well-known model of dance-with-live-music-accompaniment one step further by choreographing musicians along with the dancers, the audience has the singular experience of musician and dancer performing as one, transforming the notes and our perception of them.

Orjan Andersson’s choreography, typical of his company’s tendency towards bold, physical, non-narrative statements, does not tell a story; instead, it takes the audience on a journey through the notes of the variations, using the music almost as the script. As a piece celebrated for it structure, Andersson has picked out sequences, trills, arpeggios and syncopations and re-imagined them in movement. Playful yet tender, contemporary yet faithful, Andersson opens a door to this masterpiece of the classical canon and invites new listening.

The music performed – the Dmitry Sitkovetsky arrangement of the piece for string orchestra and trio – is similarly exploratory in nature. Written in 1985 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Bach’s birth, Sitkovetsky’s orchestral and trio arrangements of the keyboard piece swiftly became known in their own right as lauded additions to the string repertoire, sensitively drawing on the timbres and textures of strings to bring something new to the music. As such, the choice to explore this work – and reinvent it yet again with the addition of contemporary dance choreography – was an exciting and natural fit for Scottish Ensemble in their desire to champion the string repertoire.