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Re: [F_MINOR] glenn gould's goldberg recordings

At 03:05 PM 3/30/2004 -0500, musical mat wrote:

Dear Gould fans,

     Hi!  I am a student at the Royal Conservatory's Glenn Gould School,
and am doing a research paper on Gould's Goldberg Variation
recordings.  I was wondering if any of you would be able to recommend
places on the net, including specific discussions from the f minor list
that specifically deal with the the composition and/or Gould's
performances.  I know a lot is available, but I want to know what places
are most informative, not just introductory to Bach, or the Goldberg
Variations, or Glenn Gould.  Thank-you!

A few years ago I put together a digest/index of my own remarks about those, 15 postings from the F_Minor archives: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/gg-bach.htm


Tidbit: Of the Gould/Page "interview" that comes with the "State of Wonder"
set, the first ~15 minutes were published in the early 1980s as a
soundsheet in an issue of _Piano Quarterly_ magazine.


And more recently the postings below, to a different list:

[Somebody asked if there was a "barrage" of clinkers anywhere, since
the Salzburg one is a live performance:]

Well, there's no "barrage" of flaws in that Salzburg performance of the
Goldbergs. Fear not. In 37 minutes of continuous playing, there are VERY
few minor spots where he brushed a neighboring note along with the correct
one. That is, his control was astonishing; and he wasn't playing safely,
either, he was taking chances. (The spontaneity and whimsy are
remarkable.) I haven't gone through it with a red pencil counting
mistakes, because that's not what music is about....

The only memorable problem area is at the beginning of variation 29 where
he's added octaves to the bass leaps, and misses a few but keeps
going. (He also played octaves there in the 1955 recording, but single
notes [as written] in 1954 and 1981.) So what? Musically it comes across
that the whole piece has built up to this point and he's let himself get
carried away with his ecstasy. The octaves just make it that much more
exciting, over the top. He finishes variation 28 and launches right into
29 at breakneck tempo before he's quite ready to do so, hits clinkers in
bars 2 and 3, and then quickly gets himself back on track. (There are also
a few minor slips in the second half of 29: maybe he was mentally saying,
"Dammit, I got all the way to here with no problems!"? A performer's mind
can do that: as soon as one dwells on a mistake that just happened, a bit
of concentration is lost and it's easier to make more slips. That's both
the hazard and euphoria of live performance, and the "Non-Take-Twoness"
that Gould wrote about.) Anyway, the music doesn't suffer.

10/18/03: I've been working on a short set of reviews, a "Christmas Wish List" of classical recordings, for a non-music magazine. It's a list of recommendations for people who might buy a dozen or fewer discs in a whole year, and focused on new-ish releases. And I had the Gould reissue "A State of Wonder" (1955 and 1981 recordings plus some bonus stuff) in a prominent slot for most of the writing process, but it just got bumped out last week! What bumped it out, in my opinion, as even more essential? The new Schiff.

That Gould reissue last year is so great because they've finally fixed the
harsh early-digital sound of the 1981 recording, and gone back to the
simultaneously-recorded analog tapes. The tone is warm and it sounds like
a real piano. It sounds *so much better* than ever before, it's a must-buy
even if (maybe "especially if") one didn't like that performance before, as
I haven't. I still like his live 1959 performance in Salzburg better, and
then the 1955, and then the 1981, and then the 1954 from CBC. But the 1981
recording redeems itself here. For 20 years my impression had been that
Gould near the end of his life didn't care about beautiful tone anymore;
but I was wrong. He was just a victim of poor engineering there! [I still
consider the 1981 recording, excellent as it is, more a piece by Glenn
Gould about Glenn Gould performed by Glenn Gould, than a performance of the
Goldberg Variations....]

Anyway, the new Schiff recording on ECM is good enough to bump off that
Gould reissue as essential listening for this year, and that's saying a
lot. It joins my rarefied top three on piano: the live 1959 Gould, Zhu
Xiao-Mei, and now the new Schiff. There are some other very good piano
recordings out there, too, but I feel these are the three I couldn't do
without. Do I like it *better* than Zhu and Gould? I don't know yet. At
this level, why should there be only one "best" recording? The music can
stand different and equally convincing approaches.

Some earlier thoughts about Zhu's recording, et al:

[In the follow-up discussion, and further listening, I've added Dershavina's recording to that list of my favorites on piano. Interpretively it sounds so much like the 1955 Gould in so many ways, while different in taking the repeats and using more pedal.]

Brad Lehman

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