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The Hersch

Glenn Gould (1932-1982), Savant-Like Canadian Pianist Most Famous for His Interpretations of Bach

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It's pretty amazing that one single concert from over 50 years ago has its own Wikipedia entry, but this was no ordinary concert.

The New York Philharmonic Concert of Apr 6, 1962

Here's a 4-minute video with all the controversy encapsulated:

And here's the whole thing:

I listened to it all, and I was interested in the 3rd movement in particular. There's a good interview with Gould at about the 57:30 point that's well-worth listening to. Gould is noted for dismissing virtuoso pianists who "show off" as opposed to honoring the composer's intentions to the letter, which makes it doubly interesting. Is he having his cake and eating it too? I know experts who would answer on both sides of that question. The first minute of this video gets to the heart of the matter (after the first minute, it becomes a separate topic, and a beautiful one, to be discussed in another thread - however, at about the 3-minute mark, Gould chimes in with a comment directly relevant to this issue. He also inserts a comment at about 6:10 perhaps even more relevant - if you can stomach a slow Schubert movement (which takes patience), this is worth watching, and even studying - you know, even though this thread has nothing to do with Richter, this entire video is very much on-topic because it really gets into "why" Gould did what he did):

Gould, by the way, was "eccentric" to say the least, and people have gone so far as to wonder whether or not he had Asperger's Syndrome.

Where did Glenn Gould get the Brit accent?

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I'm not a Gould fan (as Rocks knows). He recorded an LP of Renaissance music that's hysterical to listen to. He actually said Orlando Gibbons was his favorite composer. His Goldbergs are hard to listen to IMO. Eccentric, yes, emphatically.

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His Goldbergs are hard to listen to IMO. Eccentric, yes, emphatically.

Which ones? (His 1955 recording of The Goldberg Variations was shot out into space (Mark might say, 'Where it belongs'); he re-recorded them in 1981, and the two versions show the difference between a young, brash genius; and an older, wiser genius).

I have spent much of this day arguing *against* Gould as an agreeable Romantic musician with two of his adoring fans who think he can do no wrong (both of whom, I must admit, vastly more knowledgeable than I am) - I cannot tolerate some of his Romantic repertoire; I find *all* of his Bach to be reference-standard, and I cannot imagine hearing anyone else play polyphonic music that I could love this much. I compare his Bach with Andras Schiff's (the "other" famous Bach specialist), and I love one; detest the other - I don't think there's much commonality between these two and their approach to Bach).

Most certainly, I'm not here to debate Mark, whose opinions about Gould are well-known to me, and whose opinions I've come to terms with; I'm just throwing this information out there for everyone else.

For the record, I think Glenn Gould - despite the enormous difference between his strengths and weaknesses - is one of the greatest pianists to ever live, the definitive source for Bach, and a genius in the true sense of the word. Also for the record, it's not just his Bach - he has often surprised me with some of his recordings of composers you might not associate with him, for example, this recording of Prokofiev's 7th Sonata, 3rd Movement:

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 His Goldbergs are hard to listen to IMO. Eccentric, yes, emphatically.

A few years ago, for whatever reason, I bought both versions of his Goldberg Variations.  They sound like completely different compositions to me. Yes, eccentric is a very good description of him.

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First, either on the piano playing Bach is regrettable. Listen to Pierre Hantai play Bach on the correct instrument. It's luminous. His Golbergs are clear and correct IMO. Gould was asked why he played Mozart so fast. "Because I can". Eccentric. Yes.

Wow, I couldn't agree more. Listening to harpsichord repertoire played on piano is kind of violently disruptive to the proper order, like the lute repertoire played on modern guitars, only perhaps more so. Pierre Hantai plays the Bach harpsichord literature as if he and Bach collaborated on the stuff.

You all are entitled to your opinions, but I hope you don't listen to much Haydn, Mozart, or early Beethoven - basically all of classical keyboard music - because a modern piano sounds nothing like a fortepiano, on which you can play an octave giissando with one hand.

That said, unlike (dare I say) the majority of modern musicians, I have a healthy respect for works played on original instruments, in much the same way I feel about being a vegetarian. I understand it, I get it, I like you, and I sympathize with being trampled by the stampede of the masses.

This also touches on why, if someone held a gun to my head, forcing me to name the most important composer in history, my answer would be Beethoven.

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You all are entitled to your opinions, but I hope you don't listen to much Haydn, Mozart, or early Beethoven - basically all of classical keyboard music - because a modern piano sounds nothing like a fortepiano, on which you can play an octave giissando with one hand.

The instrument known nowadays as the fortepiano does indeed sound very different from a modern piano, but it was, at least, an instrument of the same type: hammered strings, dynamic variation depending on the force with which the keys are struck. The modern piano is a development and refinement of the earlier instrument. The harpsichord operates on completely different principles, as I'm sure you're aware.

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