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Glenn Gould returns from the grave to denounce his own Goldbergs

October 26, 2017 by norman lebrecht

17 comments.


Not Gould himself, but a quote from the late Howard Scott, producer of the breakthrough 1955 Goldberg Variations, which has been released by Sony with all the takes that never made the final cut.

‘If Glenn knew Sony Classical was going to release those outtakes, which he rejected – he did not like what he had done in those performances – he would probably come down and shoot anybody who allowed them to be released,’ is a quote from Scott,  who died in 2012, aged 92.

Tim Page, who knew Gould well and interviewed him around the time of his 1982 second attempt at the Goldbergs, thinks Gould would not have minded that much.

‘He insulted this 1955 performance all through the interview,’ says Tim. ‘So, I think he would probably just take it easily because nobody could do worse to this recording than Glenn himself did in our interview.’

That’s the thing about GG: he will never let us rest in peace.

Read more here.


Comments (17)

  1. Olassus says:

    Gavrilov’s Goldbergs remain the standard, more musical than Gould I or II.

    1. Sanity says:

      I see Tureck’s 1950s is now labelled ‘ponderous’ by critics. Perhaps I am a dinosaur, who just likes refined touch and exquisite finger pedalling. On which note, best fantasy Goldbergs would be Richter and Lipatti.

      Gavrilov is, indeed, very impressive.

    2. Tommy says:

      Oh yes, Gavrilov’s is special also to me – for more than musical reasons. At the beginning of its life, this Goldberg recording received mixed to mostly bad reviews and it kind of turned me off. But I couldn’t help liking the DG cover . So eventually one day I gave into this fondness and bought it. I have never ever regretted it for one second!

      At this time my intention was to expand my music library and understanding of classical music based on reviews and picking top recordings for each work. This Gavrilov recording made me rethink the validity of reviews (and this idiotic strategy) more than any other recording. To duplicate repertoire on disc and simply trust my own ears and preferences became the preferred way to develop my knowledge of music. Reviews has subsequently turned into simple forgettable entertainment, at best.

      Since namedropping of Goldbergs occur in this thread, I can’t help but feeling the need to name this one. The most elegantly played, most varied and most musical version to my ears, and still so after 20 years…
      Meine Damen und Herren – THE BEST GOLDBERG OF ALL TIME: Ekaterina Derzhavina (or should the z be s or even j, which I have seen somewhere?)

      https://www.amazon.com/Bach-Goldberg-Variations-Johann-Sebastian/dp/B000005I8B/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1509060557&sr=1-1&keywords=ekaterina+goldberg

      So here I stand with two CD’s with Russians brilliantly playing a core German work. Now let’s see – have I ever heard a Russian orchestra play a Brahms symphony decently well? Never! They can’t. There is something wrong with my cultural ability equation here. It’s me perhaps… . BTW – I have lost interest in GG’s Goldbergs! And the humming.

  2. Ungeheuer says:

    There are so many fine Goldbergs to admire: both Goulds, Tureck, Gavrilov, and, more recently, Schiff II, Levit, Rana, Denk, Vogt. And as fine as Gould II is, there’s an undeniably raw, visceral, dark-gothic force associated with Gould I that is irresistible and impossible to ignore. It is one of those rare moments that call for total surrender from the listener.

    1. Ungeheuer says:

      The Tureck Goldbergs I list is the one recorded in Wm. F. Buckley’s living room. Fabulous. About Gould I, two adjectives sum it up: Elemental. Demented.

  3. daveferre says:

    Then there is the Andre Tchaikowsky performance:

    http://andretchaikowsky.com/pianist/index.htm#650701

    …remembering that he played the entire Goldberg as an encore once (in Spain), when he thought the audience applause was lacking.

  4. Jonathan Z says:

    Has anyone ever recorded the Goldbergs on the harpsichord?

    1. Petros Linardos says:

      Many. Try Richard Egarr
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CA1mGcjxiWI

      or Robert Hill, who starts with an interesting improvisation
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHPDFcPherg

      There are many other excellent recordings.

    2. Emil says:

      Plenty. Gustav Leonhardt, Pierre Hantaï, Ton Koopman, among others. You can easily find them on Youtube.

      And then there’s even a string trio version by Rachlin-Imai-Maisky (?!?!?!)…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uli8fXrrlc

    3. Ungeheuer says:

      Yes but why bother? About 3 minutes into it and it’s like experiencing a root canal.

      1. Petros Linardos says:

        I never realized root canals could be so inspiring.

      2. LP says:

        Root canal for you maybe but may I suggest that it tells more about you than about how this music sounds on the instrument it was written for ? Interestingly enough, 3/4 of the Klavieruebung (including the Goldberg variations) was written for the harpsichord and this represents quite a big part of the music published by Bach. And publishing at that time was not an easy endeavor. It is fascinating to consider how Bach is idolized these days and how easily one of the 2 instruments (the other being the organ) he published the most music for can be dismissed.

    4. Pianofortissimo says:

      The latest re-issue of my favorite harpsichord recording (Gustav Leonhardt):

      https://www.amazon.co.uk/J-S-Bach-Goldberg-Variations-Bwv/dp/B000V1V0WA/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1509030092&sr=1-1&keywords=bach+leonhardt+goldberg

      I’m sure you can bear it without anesthesia.

      1. Jonathan Z says:

        When posting I was aware that a huge number of harpsichordists had recorded the piece. My comment was ironic, intending to hint that previous posters seemed to be exclusively interested in recordings on an instrument that Bach didn’t write for, as opposed to the one he did write for.

        1. Petros Linardos says:

          Well, you started an interesting and partly amusing thread.

  5. Petros Linardos says:

    So, a pianist who died in 1982 comes back now via a quote of a producer who died in 1992, despite the doubts of an exceptionally smart scholar who is still alive and well.

    1. Luk Vaes says:

      It’s just for the money.


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