To be honest, the record shop also had Ralph Kirkpatrick's WTC (played on a clavichord) and that was the one I really wanted, but it was six expensive LPs. Gould was kind to my wallet and buying it meant I would only have to skip lunch once that week (my lunch money was my record buying money). Nearly forty years later the Gould recording of the WTC is still my favorite.
As time moved on I branched out and picked up his life-affirming recording of the Goldberg Variations (the 1955 recording), his zesty Two and Three Part Inventions album, Toccatas and so on. Of course with the dawn of the CD era I went out and replaced the LPs with CDS. His Bach recordings are still models of clarity and precision.
Besides his artistic brilliance, there was something about Gould that I found compelling. He was, to put it mildly, an eccentric character and there's something undeniably appealing about that. A performer that turns away from the concert stage at the pinnacle of his career to devote himself to recording is fascinating. Gould's views on the power of electronic media were prescient and I can only wonder what he would have made of our current day. The thought of a Glenn Gould blog and videos boggles the mind. I would give a kidney to have had an opportunity to chat with him about this -- the best I could manage was sharing a bench with his statue on a frigid Toronto afternoon.
|The writer's fantasy chat with Glenn Gould|
Leonard Bernstein was also a great communicator and his famous Norton lectures were virtuoso shows given by a charismatic and handsome man. He'd be the fellow who would dominate your cocktail party with witty insights, but Gould was the guy you would hang out with at the coffee bar and talk with into the late hours of the night. He would have you thinking about things long after that night was over. Give me the frumpy, hyper-intelligent, slightly weird guys any day.
Gould's Bach is seminal, but I thought it would be interesting to consider some of the great non-Bach recordings he made. Here's a couple of favorites:
Consort of Musicke by William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons
Gould's recordings of music by William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons makes every twisting contrapuntal line crystal clear. Early music aficionados may turn up their noses, but this is inspired playing.
Strauss Ophelia Lieder; Enoch Arden; Piano Sonata
That's right, Gould plays Richard Strauss. Gould accompanying Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and actor Claude Rains? Yup. Apparently the great diva and Gould didn't see eye-to-eye on interpretive matters, but the performance of the youthful sonata is superb.
Wagner Siegfried Idyll; Meistersinger and Götterdämmerung transcriptions
A fascinating and bittersweet album. Gould's transcriptions are marvelous and he leads a lovely and lyrical Siegfried Idyll. From what I've read he was interested in doing more conducting, but passed away at the far too young age of 50.
Glenn Gould is buried at the foot of his parents' grave in a cemetery on the outskirts of Toronto. When I visited in December there were some withered orchards and lilies left on the grave. It was a cold, gray day and I didn't have any flowers to leave. After some thought I decided to leave a token of my visit, my business card. If he were still alive we would have one hell of a chat.
--Craig ZeichnerEditor, Ariama