Passacaglia (Godowsky)

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Passacaglia is a solo piano composition by the composer Leopold Godowsky. It was completed in New York, on October 21, 1927. The composition commemorates the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Franz Schubert. Typical of Godowky's composition style, the piece contains dense contrapuntal, polyphonic, and chromatic writing.

Description of form[edit]

The work is a passacaglia based on the first 8 measures of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony. The Passacaglia is made of forty-four variations, a cadenza and four-part fugue.


The Passacaglia gained notoriety after pianist Vladimir Horowitz reportedly gave up on the piece, claiming that six hands, not two, were required to play it. Abram Chasins, who heard Godowsky perform this piece in one of his gatherings, remarked, "This was sheer enchantment, both the work itself and Godowsky's pianism. It had the cool, colorful clarity of a stained-glass window. Although I was greatly moved and impressed by what I heard, Godowsky's effortless mastery made me unaware of the vastness of his pianistic feat that night." (Rimm, The Composer-Pianists)


The Passacaglia is currently copyrighted by Carl Fischer, Inc. and is published within The Godowsky Collection, Vol. 1: Original Compositions for Piano Solo.


  • Rimm, Robert (2003). The Composer-Pianists: Hamelin and The Eight. Amadeus Press. ISBN 978-1-57467-072-1. 

External links[edit]