409 Recommend It!

Glenn Gould: A State of Wonder: The Complete Goldberg Variations 1955 & 1981 (2002)

By Published: | 15,930 views
Glenn Gould: A State of Wonder: The Complete Goldberg Variations 1955 & 1981 Being in the minority in my feelings for Glenn Gould's second Goldberg Variations, I feel it wise to add that I do not necessarily prefer them to his more famous 1955 recordings, as an admirer might. Yet there is something in the second Goldberg Variations, taped four months before Gould's death, that I more frequently return to—a quality of summation, I believe, of an artist having arrived at the final canvas, the last sheet of the score, and deciding that what was about to be revealed, was all that remained. Gould's early reputation was of course staked by his first Goldberg sessions, from June '55, and the story is well-known—balmy summer air and the young virtuoso, a hypochondriac, dressed in winter clothing, then soaking his hands and forearms in hot water and towels in preparation for Bach's little known contrapuntal variations, commissioned to stave off the insomnia of Count von Kaiserling, a condition from which Gould himself suffered. With his five bottles of pills spread before him—"all different colors and prescriptions" as the liner notes read—Gould proceeded to create what may well be the best known of all piano recordings, a masterful showing of command, balance, vigor; famously humming along, singing as he played, we marvel at the tempi, alive, effervescent in an instant, and then the marked breaks, the somber shades of Gould's technique. And, perhaps, it is this quality of abrupt division which led Gould to remark that for all the praise allotted these '55 Goldberg Variations, he found them rather like thirty otherwise interesting pieces each "going their own way."

Of the three records that comprise this set, the latter two focus, principally, on the '81 re-recording of the Variations —the recording itself, from May, on the second disc, and an interview with music critic Tim Page, on the third, taped a month before the pianist's death in August, topped off with outtakes from '55. Gould seems well pleased with his most recent Variations, and one has the sense that this is an artist fully believing, rightly or wrongly, that he has at last captured what he wanted to say. The interview is odd, and Gould even provided a script for the men to follow that begins with a third-rate comedy bit, Gould referring to himself as "Sir John," in attendance to discuss his film, Bridge on the River Hudson. But to listen to the interview that follows, and then to go back and take in the '81 Variations, is to be confronted with a visage that fuses one to one's chair, rather than be forced out of it with glee, as with the earlier Variations. For here we have that odd, blessed mingling of pallor and rosy-hue that we see reflected in other great works of art—Mozart's Requiem, Van Gogh's Wheat Field with Crows, the latter installments of Tristram Shandy —set down, or maybe set upon, just prior to that point when the correspondence may now be compiled, and posterity becomes history. Of his first Goldberg release Gould complained that the much loved 25th variation was "like a Chopin nocturne," remarking that "it just doesn't have the dignity to bear its suffering with a hint of quiet resignation." Twenty-six years later, variation 25, now twenty-five seconds shorter, is not at all like a Chopin nocturne, and, somehow, not quite like a Bach variation. It has the quality of something purely autonomous, amorphous and still distinct, conjuring a feeling of impenetrable isolation. And what a fanciful notion should one believe that here is something for your insomnia, a comfort in the middle of the night, this grand eloquence.


Track Listing: Disc 1: 1. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Aria 2. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 1 3. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 2 4. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 3. Canon On The Unison 5. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 4 6. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 5 7. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 6. Canon On The Second 8. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 7 9. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 8 10. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 9. Canon On The Third 11. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 10. Fughetta 12. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 1 13. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 12. Canon On The Fourth 14. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 13 15. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 14 16. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 15. Canon On The Fifth 17. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 16. Overture 18. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 17 19. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 18. Canon On The Sixth 20. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 19 21. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 20 22. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 21. Canon On The Seventh 23. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 22. Alla Breve 24. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 23 25. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 24. Canon On The Octave 26. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 25 27. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 26 28. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 27. Canon On The Ninth 29. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 28 30. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 29 31. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 30. Quodlibet 32. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Aria Da Capo Disc 2: 1. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Aria 2. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 1 3. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 2 4. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 3. Canon On The Unison 5. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 4 6. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 5 7. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 6. Canon On The Second 8. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 7 9. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 8 10. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 9. Canon On The Third 11. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 10. Fughetta 12. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 11 13. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 12. Canon On The Fourth 14. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 13 15. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 14 16. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 15. Canon On The Fifth 17. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 16. Overture 18. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 17 19. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 18. Canon On The Sixth 20. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 19 21. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 20 22. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 21. Canon On The Seventh 23. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 22. Alla Breve 24. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 23 25. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 24. Canon On The Octave 26. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 25 27. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 26 28. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 27. Canon On The Ninth 29. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 28 30. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 29 31. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Variation 30. Quodlibet 32. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Aria Da Capo Disc 3: 1. Glen Gould Discusses His Peformances Of The Goldberg Variations With Time Page, August 22, 1982, Toronto, Canada 2. Studio Outtakes From The 1955 Goldberg Variations Recording Session

Personnel: Glenn Gould (p)

Record Label: Sony Classical

Style: Beyond Jazz


comments powered by Disqus

Weekly Giveaways

Roscoe Mitchell

Roscoe Mitchell

About | Enter

Peter Lerner

Peter Lerner

About | Enter

Jamie Saft

Jamie Saft

About | Enter

Sun Trio

Sun Trio

About | Enter

Sponsor: Nonesuch Records