Glenn Gould
Bach: Goldberg Variations


5.0
classic

Review

by Ben Borneman USER (11 Reviews)
October 21st, 2009 | 9 replies


Release Date: 1956 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Like a sunday drive acid trip...

Classical music: Whether loved or hated, it simply predates everything hip, groovy, kvlt, or otherwise. It may go unnoticed by the heathen masses, but the music of composers centuries past permeates our modern soundscape on a global level. Any student of film can speak to the emotional manipulation made possible by these antiquitous reverberations. Though generally accepted as affecting (both positively and negatively), you are unlikely to share the opinion that “Classical Rocks!” That is, of course, unless you make yearly contributions to your local public radio station. In defense of the genre I offer this album as exhibit #1.

In 1955 an ambitious young Canadian pianist by the name of Glenn Herbert Gould sat down to record The Goldberg Variations of Johann Sebastian Bach. The material was considered too esoteric to be commercially successful, yet a brazen performance vaulted Gould to international stardom and became one the most celebrated classical recordings of the 20th century. Some fifty years later the performance remains relevant.

The Goldberg Variations consist of 30 variations and two arias serving as bookends. Notes and melodies swirl about in all directions here, with fluttering fingers and keystrokes dominating the bulk of the material. Gould was renown for the unsurpassed clarity of his playing, even with the remarkable speed exhibited on many variations. Brisk and whimsical occasionally gives way somber and deliberate, but this serves to give the listener a welcome respite from more intense, even overwhelming selections. Remarkable here is the manner in which sounds seem to flirt with each other in ways seemingly counterintuitive, even alien. The effect would be disturbing if not so utterly hypnotic. Mr. Gould’s performance at times seems to eclipse mere virtuosity for the superhuman, reminding me of a certain six-fingered pianist in the film GATTACA. It is important to understand that the music found here is an interpretation of Bach. It is the passion and intentions of this iconic baroque figure filtered through the soul of a cocksure young Canadian, and transmitted through his nimble fingers.

Glenn Gould is almost as well known for his bizarre behaviors as his musical virtuosity. Among these would be an extreme aversion to cold and a plentitude of neurotic performance requirements. The most relevant eccentricity for purposes of this review would be the habitual ‘humming’ Glen would exhibit during performance. To the sound engineer’s dismay, this sometimes becomes audible throughout The Goldberg Variations, as well as other recordings. Some, including this author, find it an endearing quality, indicative of the passion and commitment Gould instilled in his playing. Those intrigued should know that intimate knowledge the man behind the music allows for a finer appreciation of this bewitching recording.

For those who set aside a place for classical amidst all the skramz, jams, and joints, The Goldberg Variations is simply essential.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
WatchItExplode
October 21st 2009


3273 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Sorry, had to repost this under the right album...also proud of myself for inclusion of the word cocksure in a review

Digging: Giant Squid - Minoans

thebhoy
Emeritus
October 21st 2009


4461 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Gould was a master of the ‘finger tapping’ technique


Just noticed this... this doesn't make any sense really.

mareep
October 21st 2009


391 Comments


never really liked bach myself but thats just me. although he did so much stuff its hard not to like some of it

keysofanxiety
October 21st 2009


143 Comments


Not meaning to seem pedantic, but wasn't Bach in the "Baroque" era rather than the "Classical" era?

I'll check this out, though. Similarly to 'thebhoy', I'm not quite sure what you mean by the finger
tapping technique.

I'll rate when I get the album.

WatchItExplode
October 21st 2009


3273 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Gould worked from a young age with his teacher Alberto Guerrero on a technique known as finger-tapping, a method of training the fingers to act more independently from the arm. - wiki

anyway, it makes more sense when you listen...and you should do so

forgive me for my sweeping generalizations


thebhoy
Emeritus
October 21st 2009


4461 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

yes, Bach is in the Baroque era, though I think he meant Classical as an umbrella genre as supposed to the Classical era, which came immediately after this I believe (or was that Romantic?)

Also: the 'finger-tapping' that you quote from wiki (which you should never quote from but whatevs) seems redundant because that's essentially how you play fast runs and cadenzas that are heard in this music in the first place.

thebhoy
Emeritus
October 21st 2009


4461 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

never really liked bach myself but thats just me. although he did so much stuff its hard not to like some of it.


For me it's not even so much about liking it, it's more about being in awe of Gould.


WatchItExplode
October 21st 2009


3273 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

For me it's not even so much about liking it, it's more about being in awe of Gould.

^^^^^^point of the entire review

edit: no more 'finger tapping'

keysofanxiety
October 21st 2009


143 Comments


Sorry 'thebhoy', my mistake.

Anyway, 'WatchItExplode', I'll check this out, and then give my review on it =)

I've always rather liked Bach (apart from when made to complete 4 part choral harmonies, lol =@)

I'm not sure how this album stacks up against his other stuff, musically. I absolutely loved his Brandenburg Concertos, though naturally this is on the other end of the spectrum.



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