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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Toccata in G major BWV 916
Toccata in E minor BWV 914
Toccata in G minor BWV 915
Ouverture in the French Style, BWV 831
Glenn Gould (piano)
Rec: February, March, May 1971, November, December 1972, February 1973, Eaton’s Auditorium, Toronto, Canada ADD
SONY SMK87763[60.34]
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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 ideal showcase.

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 Bach recordings.


Kirk McElhearn

 


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