How the self-styled “greatest composer ever!” created the Greatest Music Ever Written Ever for a Rich Dude who could not sleep.
Improvising on a historical anecdote that he admits “may not be true,” Angleberger has Bach himself explain how he created what came to be known as the “Goldberg Variations”—named for the beleaguered personal harpsichordist of a grumpy, insomniac Rich Dude unmoved by sonatinas (“Too slow!!!”), minuets (“Too fast!!!”), or toccatas (“Too toccatally!”). So how did Bach do it? “I took some leftover notes and a dance hall tune and an old folk song or something and mashed them all up, and it was the Greatest Music Ever Written Ever,” he trumpets. “Yes, it’s just that easy for me!” The Dude and all his likewise grumpy, sleep-deprived servants and neighbors are delighted, one of the former sighing, “each note falls into just the right spot in my brain.” Some brown faces in the crowd scenes add diversity to the mostly white cast, and Elio’s broad, simply drawn, loudly colored cartoon scenes otherwise provide worthy accompaniment for the high-volume, exclamation-strewn narrative. An appreciative note from the author citing a free, online recording of the work serves up a proper coda, but readers hoping to learn the Rich Dude’s name or more about Bach will have to look elsewhere.
Decidedly irreverent—but never disrespectful—riffs on a musical masterwork and its creator. (Picture book. 6-10)