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GG: Italian Concerto
I think GG really didn't like the Italian Concerto too much, but it seems
to be one of those pieces that he mastered very early on, so it got
trotted out a fair bit on early concert programs and it *was* one of the
pieces he used to follow up on the big success of the '55 Goldbergs
The Italian Concerto is one of those flashy showpieces that Bach wrote
early on as a virtuoso keyboardist. Gould's criticism of it always
focused on it's lack of contrapuntal interest and the fact that it was
a showpiece for keyboard virtuosity (he hated these kinds of
I was very surprised to learn that he re-recorded this in the early 80s
(or did he just have *plans* to?). First off, he rarely re-recorded
*anything* and to re-record something that he had openly criticised for
so long seems odd. Of course, he recorded Chopin and Haydn shortly before
his death too, and one can't imagine him having much interest in *those*
projects ten or fifteen years earlier.
It's supremely enigmatic that GG would record "pieces of fluff" like the
fugue on the name BACH (included on the Art of Fugue disc) and pass over
a first complete recording on piano of a monumental work like the ART OF
FUGUE, for which he obviously had great empathy.
BTW, I'm enjoying the ART OF FUGUE disc a lot....it's just great to hear
piano renditions of items like the final triple fugue of this awesome
Wow,*dig* the sound quality of those CBC radio broadcasts...(NOT!).
At McGill, we used to hear jokes about CBC recording technicians whose
primary background was in refrigerator repair....yikes....thanks for that
written disclaimer in the liner notes, Mr. Sony.
On Tue, 4 Mar 1997, Kristen Immoor wrote:
> At 6:01 PM 3/4/97, Alun Severn wrote:
> >3. GG professed to detest the Italian Concerto; the Chromatic
> > Fantasy was a "monstrosity". Is this why these pieces languished
> > in Columbia's vaults?
> Well he sure did play the Italian a heck of a lot, maybe he grew to
> detest it. It seems like I must have about 4 different recordings of that
> piece, and in the sessions video from "On the Record", he said he'd been
> playing it since his early teens. He must have liked it for some reason at
> some point.
> I don't know if I put all that much faith into GG's claims to
> hate/love/detest/etc. a particular piece or composer, I've heard him go
> back and forth on a few claims depending on when and where he was asked,
> and I suspect that he tended to speak (or write) quite honestly and off the
> top of his head, his penchant for rewrites and prewrites notwithstanding.
> In the Portrait video, John Roberts tells a quick story about a younger
> Gould preparing performance selections, and him telling Roberts of a
> certain piece he intended to play (I can't for the life of me remember
> which - was it the Rach rhapsody on Paganini? agh, who knows) anyway, he
> tells it to Roberts and Roberts says, "But Glenn, I thought you hated that
> piece!" and Gould says, shocked, "I do not! It's a VERY good piece!" and so
> on. I'll bet he did that kind of thing a lot with his friends, which I kind
> of admire; without that flexibility he would have seemed a real musical
> tyrant. Besides, everybody waffles on the art issues now and again - or at
> least the cool folks do. I myself have always had an "everything I say
> today is true, but tomorrow, who knows." policy about taste; how can you
> define something so ephemeral? Except Streisand. I can say with relative
> certainty that I'm always going to loathe Streisand. (Glenn and I would
> have had serious issues over that one...) I know this doesn't at all answer
> your question, Alun, sorry I became a bit distracted.
> Best regards, Kristen
> P.S.- Anyone have any news on the existence of a complete "GG Fantasy"
> transcription? Is it out there?
> "Glenn had barely cut down the ash that supposedly obstructed his playing
> when he had the idea of simply drawing the curtains in his room, closing
> the shutters. I could have spared myself the work of cutting down the ash,
> he said... We often cut down such an ash, a whole forest of such mental
> ashes, he said, and we could have spared ourselves the work with a simple
> sleight of hand..."
> -Thomas Bernhard