Johan Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partita No.5 in G major BWV 829 [13:18]
Concerto in F major in the Italian Style BWV 971 [11:58]
Prelude and Fugue No.7 in E flat major BWV 876 [3:58]
Prelude and Fugue No.22 in B flat minor BWV 891 [6:04]
Prelude and Fugue No.9 in E major BWV 878 [5:54]
Prelude and Fugue No.14 in F sharp minor BWV 883 [6:59]
Concerto in D minor for keyboard and strings BWV 1052* [22:19]
Glenn Gould (piano)
Toronto Symphony Orchestra/Sir Ernest MacMillan*
rec. radio, Toronto, 1952-1954 and 29 March 1955*
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.
Dominy Clements
They haven’t bothered, so why should we?