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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
The Italian Album
Johann Sebastian BACH
Concerto for solo keyboard No. 3 in D minor (after Alessandro Marcello) BWV 974
Fugue for keyboard in B minor (on a theme by Albinoni), BWV 951
Fugue for keyboard in A major (on a theme by Albinoni), BWV 950
Aria variata for keyboard in A minor ("In the Italian Style"), BWV 989
Italian Concerto for keyboard solo in F major, BWV 971
Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue for keyboard in D minor, BWV 903
Fantasia for keyboard in G minor (doubtful), BWV 917
Fantasia for keyboard in C minor (doubtful), BWV 919
Fantasia and Fugue for keyboard in C minor, BWV 906
Sonata for keyboard in D major, K. 430 (L. 463) "Tempo di ballo"
Sonata for keyboard in D minor, K. 9 (L. 413), "Pastorale"
Sonata for keyboard in G major, K. 13 (L. 486)
Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH
Keyboard Sonata in A minor, Wq 49/1, H30 "Wurttemberg"
Glenn Gould, piano
Rec: June 1959, January, February 1968, 30th Street Studios, New York; April 1971, May, October 1979, May 1980, Eaton's Auditorium, Toronto, Canada.
SONY SMK87753 [78.03]
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This disc is somewhat of an anomaly. It contains one of the most diverse selections of Glenn Gould's recordings. While it is nominally a Bach album, the wide range of composers makes it more of a compilation. As a set of pieces from Columbia's "ice-box", this album has no macro-structure; it is just a collection of uncollected pieces. Yet, in spite of that, it is perhaps one of the best introductions to Glenn Gould.

Gould begins with three Bach works after Italian composers. Giving them his own unique sound, he brings these little-known works into the spotlight. He follows with three sonatas by Scarlatti, which he again marks with his imprimatur. A sonata by C.P.E. Bach follows, then back to "old" Bach.

The heart of this disc is the 1959 recording of Bach's Italian Concerto in F major. Gould made it clear that he hated this piece, it was a work that he only agreed to play because he planned to record all of Bach's keyboard works. Alas, if only Gould had hated more music … His is the most passionate, most ingenious recording of this work for piano. He dives into it head-first, with his customary energy and effervescence, casting trills and arpeggios to the wind with alacrity. He plays the andante with the subtlest nuances of intensity, deconstructing the movement into its barest essentials. Then it's back to good old lightning-fast Glenn Gould, for an unforgettable roller-coaster ride through the presto.

There is a CBC documentary filmed as he recorded this work. It shows a Glenn Gould in his early years, wearing his youth on his sleeve, and the energy that courses through him as he records the Italian Concerto is memorable. Yes, and this was a piece he hated.

Perhaps one of the best introductions to Glenn Gould, this hodgepodge of works includes one of his finest Bach recordings, the Italian Concerto.

Kirk McElhearn

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