[f_minor] Gould and Rachmaninoff

Houpt, Fred fred.houpt at rbc.com
Wed Jul 14 09:37:51 EDT 2010

GG was highly selective when defining music whose forms were overly
virtuosic.  For example, there are many Brahms pieces that are very hard
to play, especially the 2'nd Piano Concerto (gosh, did GG play this one
or was it only #1?) and yet he loved Brahms.  There are sections in the
Goldberg that are as complex and devilishly difficult to play as
anything Liszt did yet we never complain about how easy GG made it
sound.  It is true that Bach would have found Liszt's overt drawing of
attention to his own physical skills to be gross.  
GG's Chopin, for me, is like listening to him roll over it with a heavy
steam roller, delighting in pulling apart all the thinly laid
superstructure, performing the music as if it had no skeleton and
smirking all along.  
It is also true that Rach like other Russian composers often wears his
heart all over the notes and perhaps GG's sometimes Apollonian
sensibilities were just put off by such exaggerated postures?  This is
then hard to explain by GG's choice of that wonderful Bizet short piece
on one of his recordings.  It is also hard then to understand that very
rich emotionalism of the Richard Strauss album, which I do treasure.  GG
then in my view was like many of us, capable of embodying contradictory
tastes that defy purely rational analysis.  I am saddened that he did
not play some Rach and the Rhapsody would have bored me as it is
waaaaayyyyy over played.  I would have enjoyed him doing a sonata or
some of the other showy pieces that I so enjoy.  
I would have just as much enjoyed GG doing the complete Bach "Musical
Offering" and complete "Art of the Fugue".  Why he chose to fragment
those pieces and not take up the whole like the Goldberg's is a mystery.
Fred Houpt


From: f_minor-bounces at glenngould.org
[mailto:f_minor-bounces at glenngould.org] On Behalf Of James Wright
Sent: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 4:10 PM
To: f_minor at glenngould.org
Subject: [f_minor] Gould and Rachmaninoff

I believe that this topic has appeared on this list a few times.  A
reminder that Gould generally dispised Rachmaninoff's works precisely
because it focuses on the virtuostic and the expressive.  However he
felt that Rachmaninoff's work as a pianist had some merit, and he owned
some recordings.
Most of the standard biographies deal with Gould's disdain for music of
this kind.  Some of GG's comments on Rach. appear in his short essay on
Alexis Weissenberg (see, for ex., http://www.solopassion.com/node/6655).
Personally, I have difficulty understanding Gould's admiration for some
of Weissenberg's recordings.  It is equally well known that Gould was
not over-fond of most of Chopin's music, however he wrote that he could
live without Chopin's piano concertos until he heard Alexis
Weissenberg's recording.

James K. Wright, Ph.D. 

Associate Professor &
Supervisor of Performance Studies
School for Studies in Art & Culture: Music
A917 Loeb Building, Carleton University
1125 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada  K1S 5B6
Email: James_Wright at carleton.ca <mailto:James_Wright at carleton.ca> 
Telephone : (613) 520-2600 (ext. 3734)
Fax : (613) 520-3905

Date: Tue, 13 Jul 2010 14:15:45 -0400
From: fred.houpt at rbc.com
To: f_minor at glenngould.org
Subject: Re: [f_minor] Facebook


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