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[F_minor] BACK TO BACH AND BELLYACHING
These are the first two paragraphs of an article entitled:
In Your Face, Glenn Gould!
by Elizabeth and Joe KahnSunday March 6, Nelson Music Room, Duke University: Towards the end of his life, Johann Sebastian Bach composed three major works into which he poured his lifelong passion and talent for intricate counterpoint and musical mathematics. While The Art of the Fugue, A Musical Offering and the Goldberg Variations represent the culmination of his art, the last two works, with their accretion of myths and mysteries, have challenged performers, listeners and musicologists literally for centuries. Enter British harpsichordist Richard Egarr.
A member of the ever growing category of musicians dedicated to matching composers and authentic contemporaneous performance practices of their music, Egarr came to Duke to display the results of his battle on two fronts: with the Goldbergs and Glenn Gould. Why Glenn Gould? In 1955, Gould came out with a characteristically quirky – many thought exquisite – piano interpretation of the Goldbergs. Over the years, the Gould recording has sold like hotcakes. Given the tendency of listeners to regard as standard whatever interpretation of a work they happen to have at home, the Gould interpretation has become one of the performances to beat. But Bach's title page to the published work specifically states that it was designed to be played on a two-manual instrument – thereby excluding the fortepiano, much less the modern piano. Egarr performed on Duke's William Dowd, a copy of a Mietke instrument closely resembling the harpsichord Bach traveled to Berlin to purchase for his patron and for which he composed the spectacular Fifth Brandenburg Concerto. In his remarks from the stage, contrasting the piano and the harpsichord, Egarr emphasized that the harpsichord is actually a "keyboard lute," requiring a more legato style of playing to bring out the flow of melody and the contrapuntal lines. A double manual was essential for this kind of playing because, among other things, it releases the player from having to overcome the overly intricate and unnatural fingering required to play this piece on a single manual harpsichord – or a piano.
(The underlined boldface type is my doing) To read the entire article click below:
Now I am neither musician nor musicologist and thus unqualified to argue what "Bach's title page" DOES OR DOES NOT state but crickey!! - and here's my question for F minorites - is 'instrument' STILL AN ISSUE? That article is just barely 2 years old. Are musicians and musicologists asking the question of whether or not Gould's Goldberg is "valid"? Isn't just the fact of Gould's creation validation? Is this an interesting topic for anyone else because since I received that 'article' from a friend it has been needling me. "In Your Face, Glenn Gould" ?? Is that supposed to be a 'playful' or 'humorous' or 'with it' journalistic approach? What next from the Kahns? How about "Hey Dude, yer just, like, y'know, SO not Bach!!" It is ad hominem and worse even than H.C. Schonberg at his most pugilistic. Is one to assume the Kahns too come lately from the sport's desk? 'One of the performances to beat'; this is just the mentality Gould
targeted in his CBC radio 'The Scene' sport spoof on the pernicious
aspects inherent in human competition. Furthermore, the Kahns' assumptions of 'listener's tendencies' are simply ludicrous and Gould's Goldberg (1 or 2) is anything but standard. As for Richard Egarr, try as I might to exclude his having a knowing hand in this injurious excercise in poor taste, all the evidence points to the contrary. It appears that Egarr is on a mission to restore to us the lost authenticity, legato, rubato, tempi and intellectual dignity of the Goldberg Variations that were 'characteristically quirkily' thrown to the wayside in Gould's recordings and 1955 liner notes. So this is serious folks, godspeed and off with the gloves? According to the Kahns, "Egarr has put Gould in his place" (what place would that be, 25 years in the grave?). Again, Mr. Egarr cannot be held responsible for what the Kahn's scribble but in his essay at Harmonia Mundi (hardly Google Hinterland) he sites Gould specifically as purveyor of unBach Bach - not just Gould's piano - writing assuredly as well respected expert in his field and one who knows the difference. The seagull quills are dipped in ink and thus become inflammatory. On the other hand Gould himself disparaged of the 1955 recording 'on the record' in his advance written spontaneous interview with Tim Page, so might not one say "Gould has put Gould in his place" ? Oh where is Dr. von Hochmeister now? Surely not WITH Gould on the banks of the river Styx tossing beadcrumbs to the Moevenpicks??
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