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Glenn Gould Anniversary Edition
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Keyboard Concertos Volume I

Concerto for Harpsichord and Orchestra No 1 in D minor BWV 1052
Concerto for Harpsichord and Orchestra No 4 in A major BWV 1055
Concerto for Harpsichord and Orchestra No 5 in F minor BWV 1056
Glenn Gould (piano)
Columbia Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Golschmann (except No 1 – Leonard Bernstein)
Recorded New York April 1957
SONY SMK87760 [48.20]


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Keyboard Concertos Volume II
Concerto for Keyboard and Orchestra No 2 in E major BWV 1053
Concerto for Keyboard and Orchestra No 3 in D major BWV 1054
Concerto for Keyboard and Orchestra No 7 in G minor BWV 1058
Glenn Gould (piano)
Columbia Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Golschmann
Recorded New York 1967-69
SONY SMK87761 [49.05]


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Bach will always be the composer most associated with Glenn Gould. Whereas with other composers – Mozart and Beethoven especially though not exclusively – one often perceives those notorious Gouldisms as deliberate affronts, either to hierarchy or to received opinion, with Bach the occasional eccentricities seem, as it were, lit from within. Not that these Concerto performances embody, except perhaps for moments of détaché articulation and occasional hardness of tone, much that will upset - much less outrage. The D minor was Gould’s most performed concerto and he’d first played it in Toronto with Sir Ernest MacMillan conducting in 1955, recording it two years later in New York with the Columbia Symphony under Leonard Bernstein. In his notes – common to both volumes of this concerto release in the Gould Anniversary Edition – Michael Stegemann considers Gould’s unremittingly perplexing attitude to the role of the soloist and his moral aversion to the genre ("I don’t even approve of concertos morally"- and this at a time when he was recording Beethoven concertos). Furthermore his increasing enthusiasm for the recording and editing process added another layer of complexity to Gould’s recording patterns; editing isn’t cheap and Gould took his time.

In fact despite Gould’s protestations these are remarkably convincing traversals. Bernstein directs a strongly etched performance of the D minor, bringing characteristic weight to the strings and Gould’s voicings are splendid. Golschmann by contrast is just that bit sturdier (noticeable in his moulding of the allegro first movement of the A major) but by contrast he is adept at unfolding, with unforced delicacy, the Larghetto of the same work, lightening the string tone as he does so, to which Gould responds with treasurable simplicity. They judge the F minor equally well; the stern, gimlet-eyed drive of the Allegro – with combustible little left hand fillips from Gould, is strongly contrasted with the succeeding Largo and the almost transcendent limpidity the musicians manage to evoke.

In the second volume it is all Gould-Golschmann. The E major opens with sprightly and avuncular drive and the Siciliano is very romantically orientated, with veiled string tone especially prominent. The D major BWV 1054 is probably rather better known in its violinistic guise; some very audible groans from Gould here, especially in the Adagio. The little – relatively speaking – G minor, which concludes the set, is again a strong and robust affair. Gould is really rather too forward in the balance and his articulation might be thought once or twice too brittle. But Golschmann’s strings once more clothe the line with a delectable romanticism.

Each of the two CDs is in book format and each houses performances that are lively, personalised and, more germane perhaps, enjoyable.

Jonathan Woolf



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