Magpie Tales: Getting to Know the Goldbergs

Goldberg Variations

Get out the bratwurst for this Magpie Tale

There was no delicate way of putting it:  even by Bavarian standards, the Goldbergs were an odd family. Proud contrarians, they feasted during Lent and fasted during Mardi Gras.  They sang “O Tanenbaum” each Easter and wore their heavy fur coats during July heat.

Believed to be direct descendants of Johann Gottlieb for whom Bach’s Goldberg Variations were said to be named, they were a musically  inclined family.  But with each generation, their approach to music became a bit odder and by the 20th Century was relegated to sideshows and country fair oddities.

Though unusual, there was no denying the talents of beautiful Lotte Goldberg, a child prodigy and oddity when at age four, she played the harpsichord with the  Goldberg signature reversals, tickling the ivories with her toes and using her hands for the “foot” pedals.

Lotte and her parents were always conflicted by her talents since the Goldbergs were in sharp conflict with the German body culture and celebration of the flesh.  Even as a baby Lotte always wanted to wear her booties and would blush when her bare feet where seen in public.  Thus, they initially booked her performances in burlesque houses.  Though she wore a high necked blouse and floor-length skirt, she felt she was being exploited by showing her bare feet and hands.

She could take no comfort in the accolades thrown quite literally at her feet since she felt she was gaining fame merely by exposing her skin.   This shame was exacerbated when a fan from Stuttgart named Oskar became obsessed by her performances, and began lurching around the Goldberg compound as she rehearsed.

This led to her making the decision to perform wearing stockings and gloves.  She managed to adapt to this new approach, but as the pundits and critics accurately observed Lotte had lost much of he spontaneity and verve that distinguished her earlier work with her bare pedal extremities.

Retiring from live performance in 1984, Lotte signed a lucrative contract with Deutsche Grammophon, and it was always open to debate whether or not she was performing  on the discs “in the nude” or not.  Regardless, her obsessive approach to recording gained her the reputation as being the “German Glenn Gould”

With the dawn of the 21st Century, she shocked the classical world by turning to popular songs and reversing form by playing the keyboards with her fingers and the pedals with her feet.  She can be seen here accompanying Wenche Myhre with a full orchestra from Myhre’s epic tribute to the songs of Liza Minelli.

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9 responses to “Magpie Tales: Getting to Know the Goldbergs

  1. Great story from this image- I thoroughly enjoyed it-especially the twist at the end!

  2. A perfect example of a wohltemperierte klavier. 🙂

  3. Lotte and I are simpatico…

  4. Oh how I enjoy your wit!

  5. This is nuts – but extremely enjoyable, welcoming nuts!

  6. Comment is from Cait not Cair, it was too quick for me to change the mistake, sorry.

  7. We hope you will join in the celebration during National Poetry Month. It was established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets and is a month-long national celebration of poetry.

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