Since this release is entirely lacking in documentation about
either the music or the genesis of these recordings, I don’t
feel particularly inclined to return the non-favour with an
extended review. The same BWV 829, 971 and 1052
have already appeared on the Canadian Broadcasting label CBC
PSCD 2005, BWV 829 on Naxos, and this and BWV 1052
on the Urania label. While the Partita No. 5 in G major
is a pretty decent recording in its own right the Concerto
in F major in the Italian Style is very nasal and thin,
and the Concerto in D minor for keyboard and strings is
not too bad but rather dated sounding in mildly grainy mono.
One of the few announcements in the booklet is that these recordings
have been ‘Digitally Re-mastered by Danilo Prefumo at Philip
& Cyril Studio, Vignate (Milan), March 2011. Prefumo has
done as good a job as I can imagine possible, but aside from
possibly a little extra bass and perhaps a bit more air around
the notes there’s not a huge difference in any of the versions
named. Basically, if you want Glenn Gould in this repertoire
there are far better sources. His first 1957 Columbia recording
of the Partita No. 5 and the Concerto in D minor with
the Columbia Symphony Orchestra is available on a very nicely
re-mastered Naxos release, 8.112049, and you can have this earlier
1954 Partita No. 5 in equally good sound paired with
the famous 1955 Goldberg Variations on Naxos 8.111247.
All of these plus the Preludes and Fugues can also be
found on the Documents label, 232552, a 2 CD release called
‘Glenn Gould ...Plays Bach’ with more than half decent transfers,
and which actually has booklet notes.
The Preludes and Fugues are of interest. The prelude
of BWV 876 is more headlong and less well controlled
than the 1970s CBS recording, though the fugue is by contrast
far more meditative and nearly a minute longer than the later
version. The prelude to BWV 891 is again more sprightly
than the earlier version, though if you thought that the ‘discovery
of slowness’ was being given the lie then the following fugue
turns this on its head once again, swifter in the earlier recording,
the later version allowing more time for the lines to develop.
One of my favourites, the earlier prelude to BWV 878 is
more stately, the fugue even more so, adding exactly an extra
minute at 2:47. BWV 883 is beautifully done, showing
how sensitive Gould could be in both the prelude and the fugue.
His shorter notes are very much in evidence in the later CBS
recording. This stylistic development is arguably more mannered,
though certainly adds an extra layer of individuality.
Glenn Gould explorers may be interested in this release if it
has some BWV numbers which they need to add to their collections,
but on its own it takes too much for granted and adds little
or nothing of value to our stock of knowledge other than illuminating
some of the ever changing thoughts Gould had on Bach in CD form.
My recommendation in any case would be to look for his later
recordings on the Sony Classics label, or check out the Mark
Obert-Thorn re-masterings on those well documented Naxos releases.