I don’t listen all that often to classical music. I guess it really depends on my mood. Lately, as you may have noticed, I am more in a rock/folk kind of mood. However, once in a while, iTunes will throw up a surprise into my ears. Today, it was one of the tasty morsels of Bach’s Goldberg Variations from the incredible, late Glenn Gould. I can’t really say that I can distinguish Variation 8 from, say Variation 19, but I can say that I can distinguish the 1955 recording from Daniel Barenboim’s 1989 version. Nothing against Daniel and in fact his Goldberg Variations are wonderful (as are the Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations on the flipside), but there is something incredibly electric in Gould’s version. I also have Pierre Hentaï’s version on harpsichord which is particularly relaxing. But again, when Gould hammers the ivory, it is like you can feel bolts of energy. In the 56 years since its release, this recording has never been out of print. The latest copy was reissued in 2002 complete with interviews and outtakes and titled “A State of Wonder”. I can’t honestly say I have taken the time to listen to the interviews, but the music speaks for itself. In terms of piano solos, my favorites would clearly be this performance followed very, very closely (if not led by) Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert.
Further comments from my cousin Pete (copied over from Facebook):
It was bashed by the classical music world when he released it because he changed the tempo and inflection on most of the movements.
Gould was an or…iginal. He also pioneered many of the mic-ing and recording techniques used in classical music today. His Idea was that the musicians could record where they felt comfortable. He was the first guy to really embrace the ” home studio ” even though his was in a vacant theatre in his home town. This was necessary for him because he was a hypochondriac agoraphobe. Because he had complete artistic freedom in his “home studio” he was able to do things other classical artists could not.
In my view he was to concert piano in the sixties what Jimi Hendrix was to electric guitar during the same period.