Open Goldberg Variations - Setting Bach Free

• Mar 5, 2011 - 11:30

Robert Douglass, a German horn player and MuseScore enthusiast, has a noble project he'd like to share with us. He wants to create a new score and studio recording of J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations, and place them in the public domain for everyone to own and use without limitations on licensing.

Bach wrote his seminal work over 270 years ago, yet public domain scores and recordings are hard or impossible to find. Robert is determined to change this. He launched the Open Goldberg Variations project and Robert is now looking for sponsors to fund the project.

This project will start by creating a new engraving of the Goldberg Variations using the MuseScore notation software. Robert contacted Werner, the MuseScore lead developer, and explained his goal. The two connected and Werner decided he would engrave the score himself using MuseScore. It would make a great test case for MuseScore and when it lacks some feature, Werner can improve the code. So double win! The edition will be subject to scholarly review, and when it is finished, it will be available to everyone to own and use without limitations.

Then Robert is also working with pianist Kimiko Ishizaka to create a professional studio recording of the Goldbergs. This recording will also be made available to everyone to own and use without limitations.

For more information:
Official Website:
Kickstarter fundraiser:


In reply to by JSB_

You can't listen to the score in any editor, you can't edit it, you can't adapt/arrange it. Having classical piece of music in MuseScore format (and then in MusicXML) will enable a lot of more usage and freedom than dead PDF.
A free format unlock possibility like and many more. PDF is just paper.

And that's without talking about the public domain recording :)

In reply to by JSB_


IMSLP is partner of the Open Goldberg Project for a good reason. The output of this project is a high quality score engraved in MuseScore. This gives everyone the opportunity to listen to it, transpose it, print it, adapt it such as adding fingerings and more. It's a natural next step for IMSLP to support digitizing the available PDF files to unlock new possibilities. The score will be available under Creative Commons Zero, i.e. public domain.

Regarding the recording: the recording will be made available under the CC0 waiver. It offers again more freedom than the works which are already available on IMSLP.

In reply to by JSB_

As an experiment, I converted a previously posted version of Variation 28 of the Goldberg Variations into the style of a Carl Czerny copy (Leipzig: Edition Peters, No.200-219) located on IMSLP. I omitted the fingerings.

The attached pdf shows the first page of the Musescore version and, for comparison, the version of Variation 28 on IMSLP. There is a minor distraction in measures 5, 7 and 8 where white space is inserted into the left-hand figure by the clef sign in the upper staff, but the rest looks pretty nice.

Attachment Size
Goldberg28p1.pdf 109.55 KB

I haven't yet gone through all the requirements (account on kickstart, account (?) on Amazon payments) for this project, and am interested in funding it, but does Amazon payments also allow Paypal? I have some funds there that I would be willing to put up towards this project but don't want to use credit card.

In reply to by schepers

It looks like Kickstarter does not support Paypal indeed. They explained why they don't support Paypal in this blog.

I believe the only solution for now is to withdraw money from your Paypal to your bank account and then pay with visa which is coupled with your bank account. Depending on what country your bank account is located in, withdrawing money from Paypal can be at 0% commission such as for US bank accounts.

In reply to by Thomas

Even though I am in Canada and would likely have easy access to fund this project through a credit card, I will resist for now. I have to voice my agreement with the majority of people on the Kickstart blog who don't agree with the strict limitations imposed via Kickstart and Amazon payments, either by being US (or North American)-centric, the lack of alternate payment methods, or the security requirements around Amazon Payments accounts.

Might I suggest an alternative? Allow people to _donate_ to this cause using the MuseScore "donate" button. I would like to see this project come to fruition, but invoking Paypal directly for this would make things much easier.

In reply to by Robert Douglass

Robert: Thank you for the agreement regarding the difficulties others are having in providing support for the Goldberg project, and for possibly opening up an easier avenue to donate into it. Before a commitment to this, I request that someone who has authority over this decision from the MuseScore project (like Werner) come out and endorse this donation method. To make it simpler, adding a separate button and/or a page for Open Goldberg donations would be a big step. I think this would make it more convenient for all to donate.

One question about this donation method is how does ones name and donation get listed on the KickStart site? Who transfers the donation from the MuseScore donation button to the Kickstart site so donators get proper credit and the "thanks" they will receive?

Note that this method of supporting the Open Goldberg project would truly be a donation, non-refundable in the event that the Goldberg project fails. This must be spelled out very carefully to would-be donators. I do not mind donating as I suspect the goal will easily be reached within the alloted time but in the unfortunate event of the failure of the project then the money must come back to the MuseScore project for continued development of this excellent scoring tool.

In reply to by schepers

If you donate via the page the donations will not be linked to the Kickstarter project. This is a bit of a risk to the project as the Kickstarter needs to get fully funded to happen at all, so it is clearly better to donate on Kickstarter. However, the alternative exists specifically for cases where Kickstarter won't work for an individual.

The bank account and the non-profit entity (The Open Goldberg Project) are the same for the Kickstarter and for The proper thanks (donor rewards) will be handled in the same way at the same time for both donation methods.

Your observation that the donations on are straight donations, not tied to the Kickstarter completion, is correct.

I had initially decided to deactivate the donations page, but the problems expressed here reversed my decision. I would encourage everyone who is able to use the Kickstarter project.



In reply to by Robert Douglass

Robert: I think we are talking past each other. When I speak of donations, I am referring to the "donate" link on the MuseScore website, not the Open Goldberg site. Since Werner has taken a large interest in the Goldberg project, and others were having issues with the donation model, it seemed prudent that the MuseScore leadership open up the ability to donate to this project through the MuseScore site.

One question you didn't address is this: Where will the donations go if the Open Goldberg project fails? My overriding interest is MuseScore development and I know MuseScore will benefit greatly if the Goldberg project succeeds. But I am willing to donate only if I know that the MuseScore project will still benefit in the event of the failure of the Open Goldberg project. I want my donation to flow back to MuseScore development. Can you guarantee this?

I was just perusing the main Goldberg page and I don't see where to donate without using KickStart. There is no obvious link to donate via Paypal. Every "Contribute" or "Contribute Now" link seems to use Kickstart.

In reply to by schepers

Hi Schepers,

Together with Werner, I'm in charge of the donate campaign on What I can do for you: make your donation on and I will make a pledge on Kickstarter on your behalf for the same amount. If the project does not reach it goal, your money will remain in our donation campaign. How does this sound like?

In reply to by Thomas

That solution works for me, and I will take you up on it. I wanted to donate to MuseScore, and this is a good way to start. If the project is a success, I will likely donate again.

Now, what about the issues that I and others in the Kickstart blog have been raising? You do have 8x days to get it sorted out, but given how MuseScore crosses continents, this should have been dealt with at the outset as it would have immediately opened up a much larger donation pool.

In reply to by Thomas

OK, donation made. It would be nice if Paypal allowed the donator to add a comment when donating. This way I can add the comment "To be pledged to the Open Goldberg project".

In reply to by schepers

Your donation is greatly appreciated. You can follow the progress of the project on the updates page:…

I look forward to sending you your score and CDs. Perhaps for bookkeeping purposes, since this came in through a long channel, it would be good if you sent your name and mailing address to


Robert Douglass
Director, Open Goldberg Project

I just checked the Goldberg project on Kickstarter and we're almost half-way there, over $6700 already. This is exciting! Already both aria dedications are taken. I see that Werner et al are busy adding features and fixes, some specific to the Goldberg's score needs (changelog from Feb 28 specifically), so there's a strong belief in and desire to see this project through. I look forward to the production of the score and CD recording.

I checked my Bach CD's and the only Goldberg I have is a harpsichord one, which is of course what they were written for. I very much look forward to hearing them performed on the piano. I would love to hear harpsichord music re-envisioned and recorded on piano instead.

And congrats to Kimiko on her recent well-received Bach program in Bonn!

Well, I wrote 4 days ago that the Open Goldberg Project was half-way to the $15000 goal, and they just surpassed it tonight, in only 20 days! What an amazing show of support.

In reply to by schepers

I noticed that an announcement of the project was made today at a discussion forum called Piano Street:

Unfortunately, the limited reaction so far seems to be skeptical and even hostile. I don't know precisely why that is (unless it's that kneejerk negativity is easier than thinking critically about something unfamiliar), but it might be worth reconsidering how (and where) the Goldberg project is presented.

On a happier note, congratulations on exceeding the monetary goal!

In reply to by [DELETED] 448831

and was equally surprised at the hostile reaction. It's probably just a couple individuals who don't have the larger context of the project, and I was a bit hesitant to write a novel on my first posting to their forum. Not everybody bothers to write a response, and it's good to expose as many communities to the project as possible. Too bad they didn't "get it" the way that MuseScore fans have done.

Thanks for the congratulations! We've got some interesting stuff to share with you and hopefully an interesting 60+ days left to go until the end of fund raising. I'm pretty excited, and very grateful to all of the generous supporters.



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