Glenn Gould: The Complete Bach Collection

30 CDs Columbia/CBS LP reissues in mini LP sleeves
8 CDs posthumous released recordings, outtakes and interviews about Bach
3 DVDs compiled from CBC’s Glenn Gould on Television, including 40 minutes of yet unreleased material
3 DVDs Glenn Gould plays Bach directed by Bruno Monsaingeon
Limited deluxe edition including full colour book with complete original liner notes, partly written by Glenn Gould himself plus new introduction by Michael Stegemann.
SONY CLASSICS 88691961142 [38 CDs + 6 DVDs]

While Glenn Gould was a pianist who performed the works of many composers, his name is inextricably linked to that of Johann Sebastian Bach. More than any other composer, Bach was Gould’s speciality. From his first recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations in 1955 to his final recording, again of the Goldberg Variations in 1981, Gould recorded Bach’s keyboard music nearly complete.
This set groups all of Gould’s Bach recordings for around $115; not only those released on LP and CD, but also a number of previously unreleased recordings: out-takes from the 1955 Goldbergs recording session; a stereo mix of the 1955 Goldbergs; some preludes and fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier, from 1952 and 1954; and two live recordings, from 1957 and 1959, of the Goldbergs (Salzburg Festival, August 1959) and the Sinfonias (Moscow, May 1957). There are two discs of interviews with Gould – one with Tim Page, and another with John McClure – and a disc of Gould speaking about Bach in German. This comes to a total of 38 CDs.
This set also includes DVDs: 6 of them. Three of these are directed by Bruno Monsaingeon, featuring the Goldbergs on one, and two others with a variety of works. Three others are from the CBC, from 1957 to 1970, featuring Gould and others playing a variety of Bach’s works. Many Gould fans are familiar with the Monsaingeon films, as they have been widely circulated – especially the Goldberg Variations video, which was my introduction to seeing Glenn Gould perform. The CBC videos are less common, though they have been released in a 10-DVD set Glenn Gould on Television. What we have in the Bach set is, naturally, the Bach performances taken from that set. If you’re a die-hard Gould fan, you’ll want to get the full DVD set as well.
Together with all these discs is a 192-page hardcover book, with some introductory essays, and with notes for each disc. Unfortunately, the notes are very succinct, and while the disc covers reproduce original LPs, the notes on them are too small to read without a microscope. Is it that hard to include a CD or DVD with PDFs of these things?
If you’re a fan of Glenn Gould, you may already have the Complete Original Jacket Collection, on 80 CDs, which contains most of what’s in this set, but you won’t have the out-takes, live recordings and DVDs. This set, at a not-quite-bargain price, is worth getting for these extras alone, if you appreciate Gould. Especially since Bach is what Gould did best.
Nice packaging, a fair price, and a bunch of previously unreleased material makes this a good purchase for any fan of Glenn Gould. If you’re not familiar with his admittedly idiosyncratic recordings of Bach’s keyboard works, this would be a good chance to discover one of the most original of performers. You may love Gould or hate him, but you can’t deny that, when he played Bach, he was channelling something transcendent.
Note: this set has been released in Europe, and will be available in the US at the end of October.
Kirk McElhearn
Love him or hate him, when Gould played Bach, he was channelling something transcendent.