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This sprightly variation contrasts markedly with the slow, contemplative mood of the theme. The rhythm in the right hand forces the emphasis on the second beat, giving rise to syncopation from bars 1 to 7. Hands cross at bar 13 from the upper register to the lower, bringing back this syncopation for another two bars. In the first two bars of the B part, the rhythm mirrors that of the beginning of the A part, but after this a different idea is introduced. Williams sees this as a sort of polonaise. The characteristic rhythm in the left hand is also found in Bach's Partita No. 3 for solo violin, in the A major prelude from the first book of The Well-Tempered Clavier, and in the D minor prelude of the second book. Heinz Niemller also mentions the polonaise character of this variation.

The first of the regular canons, this is a canon at the unison: the follower begins on the same note as the leader, a bar later. As with all canons of the Goldberg Variations (except the 27th variation, canon at the ninth), there is a supporting bass line. The time signature of 12/8 and the many sets of triplets suggest a kind of a simple dance.

Like the passepied, a Baroque dance movement, this variation is in 38 time with a preponderance of quaver rhythms. Bach uses close but not exact imitation: the musical pattern in one part reappears a bar later in another (sometimes inverted). Each repeated section has alternate endings for the first or second time.

The sixth variation is a canon at the second: the follower starts a major second higher than the leader. The piece is based on a descending scale and is in 38 time. The harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick describes this piece as having "an almost nostalgic tenderness". Each section has an alternate ending to be played on the first and second repeat.

This is another two-part hand-crossing variation, in 34 time. The French style of hand-crossing such as is found in the clavier works of Francois Couperin is employed, with both hands playing at the same part of the keyboard, one above the other. This is relatively easy to perform on a two-manual harpsichord, but quite difficult to do on a piano. Most bars feature either a distinctive pattern of eleven sixteenth notes and a sixteenth rest, or ten sixteenth notes and a single eighth note. Large leaps in the melody occur. Both sections end with descending passages in thirty-second notes.