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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
The Two and Three Part Inventions (complete) [50:00]
Sinfonia No. 8 in F, BWV 794 [0:53]
Sinfonia No. 15 in B minor BWV 801 [0:55]
Sinfonia No. 9 in F minor BWV 795 [5:01]
Unedited studio session takes from June 1955
Sinfonia No. 8 [2:15]
Sinfonia No. 15 [5:38]
Sinfonia No. 9 [5:10]
Glenn Gould, piano
rec. Columbia 30th Street Studio, New York, 1964 (tracks 1-30); 1955 (remainder).
SONY CLASSICAL 82876 78766 2 [70:02]


Let me begin by saying that I am a very serious admirer of Glenn Gould. I believe that his was one of the greatest musical minds of the twentieth century, and that he did more to advance the cause of music than many dozens of other musicians combined. Let me also state that I am very aware of his quirks and idiosyncrasies, and fully accept that there are people who dismiss him as a charlatan. Having said that, I am sad to report that this recording, despite the record label’s hype and hyperbole, fails pretty miserably.

Let’s begin with the piano. Gould’s instrument for this recording had a technical flaw in that many of the notes in the middle register struck double, giving an incessant hiccup that after about five minutes goes from being “old-sounding” as Gould believed, to being flat out annoying. It is as if a great master was forced to play on some old beaten down practice room instrument. Then there is Glenn’s famous singing. Well, it’s as obnoxious as ever in this recording.

As for the music itself, we all know that Gould futzed with tempi and articulation. No exceptions here to that habit either, and the music although never dull, can become rather distorted in the end, particularly when he chooses to play something über slowly.

Very interesting indeed are the outtakes from the 1955 recording sessions. All in mono, these recordings were never released until this disc. They show just how meticulous and painstaking an artist Gould was, and the subtle differences between each take are quite remarkable.

If this recording had been made with a fully functional piano, even Gould’s humming and singing might be forgiven. There are, however, just too many annoyances to make this performance enjoyable, and so I must commend it only to the most die-hard of Gould fans; which sadly, excludeth me, in spite of myself. Try Andras Schiff on Decca as an alternative.

Kevin Sutton


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