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outstanding retrospective

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best thing I’ve heard this year

this really exciting release


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The Glenn Gould Trilogy - A Life
1 - The Idea of Music [73.59]
2 - The Drop-Out [77.19]
3 - The Quiet in the Studio [76.59]
Written by Michael Stegemann
Glenn Gould: Tom Zahner
Narrator: Leslie Malton
Other voices: Jean-Theo Jost, Charles Ripley, Pierre Shrady, Ilene Winkler
rec. March - July 2007, WDR Studios, Cologne, Germany.
SONY 8869 713064 2 [3 CDs: 73.59 + 77.19 + 76.59]

This is a curiosity. A combination audiobook and retrospective; a mixture of docudrama and radio art; a combination of collage and audio trickery. What we have here is an attempt to recount the life of pianist Glenn Gould, who died just 25 years ago. It uses all the techniques of radio that Gould himself used in his radio documentaries. “Glenn Gould Trilogy” takes its title, in part, from the “Solitude Trilogy” that Gould produced for CBC in the 1960s and 1970s.
Over three CDs, and nearly four hours, with some 150 musical excerpts, this tells the story of Glenn Gould from his early days to his death. Covering his performing and recording career, it is a docu-drama-biography. Most of the texts spoken by the “Glenn Gould narrator” come from his own writings, letters, interviews and broadcasts. In some cases, you hear actual recordings of Gould speaking, and in others the narrator takes over. His voice is similar in timbre to Gould’s, but his accent is not; at least it’s easy to tell which is the real Gould and which is the interloper.
Fans of Glenn Gould will find this an interesting listen; however, the form of the work, using overlapping voices, sounds and musical excerpts, can be jarring. Fortunately, the overlapping voices are used only anecdotally - as if the producer wanted to show simply that he could do it. They are annoying and hard to follow. But most of the work is a more standard radio documentary. What is perhaps most interesting is the collection of clips from unreleased Gould recordings - some of his earliest performances, other radio recordings - that round out the many selections from his oeuvre.
While I’ll probably not listen to this again, it was enlightening in the way it shows Gould’s relationship with his music. However, since I had recently read a biography of Gould (“Wondrous Strange”, by Kevin Bazzana), there was little here that was new to me. If you’re a well-informed Gouldian, this set will interest you for its curiosity, rather than as an actual biography of the artist.
While it certainly has intrinsic merit as a radio broadcast, Sony has released this to coincide with their new just released final authoritative last biggest best set of Gould recordings. It makes an interesting companion for those who want to know more about Gould, and many Gould fans may enjoy listening to it.
Kirk McElhearn


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