Glenn Gould would have been seventy years old in September
2002, the timing of this release. His untimely death shortly before
his fiftieth birthday deprived the musical world of a unique, often
controversial, talent. Gould is probably best known for his recordings
of Bach’s solo keyboard music, and Sony Classical has re-released all
of these recordings with the Columbia Masterworks label on the front
of each CD package.
This is the second volume of Gould’s recordings of
the toccatas, coupled with the Ouverture in the French Style. As in
the first volume, Gould is very meticulous in his interpretation of
these works. With his almost total absence of legato, it sounds at times
as though he is picking them apart into their tiniest constituents -
brief phrases, riffs, tunes all held together by the thinnest of threads.
He navigates these pieces as though careening through an obstacle course
- at times with the greatest of speed, and at others delicately, as
though he might go outside the bounds.
But his energy is limitless - listen to the final section
of the G minor toccata, where Gould develops a brilliant, driving rhythm,
carrying the music along to a dazzling finale with runs up and down
the keyboard. Listen also to the opening riffs of the G major toccata,
which, under his fingers, takes on a relentless movement and force.
Also try the subtle, pianissimo opening to the second section of the
E minor toccata, which gives Gould’s trademark non-legato style its
Coupled with these final three toccatas is the French
Overture, or, as it is called here, the ‘Overture in the French style’.
This work is actually a partita, following in the standard form of this
type of work, with an opening movement, an overture, which is indeed
in the French style. The choice of this work to follow the toccatas
is not accidental; the opening movement is about the same length as
the toccatas. At almost ten minutes long, it makes up half of the entire
partita. That movement is constructed in the same manner, with several
sections, ranging from a free opening - which Gould plays with the same
delicacy as the second section of the E minor toccata - followed by
a fugal section which is one of Gould’s finest recordings. He comes
into his own here, flowing and swaying with the rhythm, playing the
notes forcefully, gaily, almost playfully, as he seems to construct
this fugue with pointillist strokes.
Yet another brilliant recording by this great pianist.
In this disc, Gould shows the rich palette of his playing and applies
it to the many tones and colours that with which Bach filled his toccatas.
The addition of the French Overture makes this one of Gould’s finest