Sleeplessness

According to Forkel, Bach’s first biographer ( 1802 ) this is how the Goldbergvariations came into existence:
“For this model…, we are indebted to Count Keyserlingk, formerly Russian envoy to the court of the Elector of Saxony, who frequently resided in Leipzig, and brought with him Goldberg, who has been mentioned above, to have him instructed by Bach in music. The Count was often sickly, and then had sleepless nights. At these times Goldberg, who lived in the house with him, had to pass the night in an adjoining room to play something to him when he could not sleep. The Count once said to Bach that he should like to have some clavier pieces for his Goldberg, which should be of such a soft and somewhat lively character that he might be a little cheered up by them in his sleepless nights. Bach thought he could best fulfil this wish by variations, which, on account of the constant sameness of the fundamental harmony, he had hitherto considered as an ungrateful task. But as at this time all his works were models of art, these variations also became such under his hand. This is, indeed, the only model of the kind that he has left us. The Count thereafter called them nothing but his variations. He was never weary of hearing them; and for a long time, when the sleepless nights came, he used to say: “Dear Goldberg, do play me one of my variations.” Bach was, perhaps, never so well rewarded for any work as for this: the Count made him a present of a golden goblet, filled with a hundred Louis d’ors. But their worth as a work of art would not have been paid if the present had been a thousand times as great.”
Anyway: IMHO by far the most inspiring version of this work comes from Wilhelm Kempff, who was 74 years old at the time of this recording. In glorious LP sound thanks to David Hertzberg.