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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Goldberg Variations BWV 988 (1742)
Glenn Gould (piano)
rec. 10, 14, 16 June 1955, Columbia 30th Street Studios, New York
PRISTINE AUDIO PAKM 062 [38:33]

It would be otiose to attempt a detailed critical commentary on this iconic, landmark recording by the 22-year-old Glenn Gould. Most admirers will already own this, the alpha version, and also the omega of 1982, made just before his death at fifty. They are both essential listening to those who can tolerate Gould’s vocalise and interpretative eccentricities; those who cannot will already know to leave this alone.
 
Most previous issues from Sony and Naxos have either supplemented the Goldbergs with some complementary pieces such as fugues or a Partita, or have paired the two recordings. Pristine choose here to leave the Variations unadorned at a mere 38 and a half minutes, Gould having chosen the first time around to ignore repeats. That might seem unduly parsimonious or reverential to some collectors. However, sound engineer Andrew Rose has marginally reduced some of the extraneous noises and enhanced the depth of the original, mono piano sound. It was in any case always good but here certainly sounds fuller in Ambient Stereo.
 
Unfortunately, as a corollary to that process, the thuds and thumps of the original have become more pronounced. I am not sure that I do not prefer the slightly drier ambience of my 1992 20-bit re-mastering from Sony; indeed I have become so used to it that I fancy Gould’s conception is better served by the slightly more distanced, mono sound.
 
In short, if you already own this in a previous Sony incarnation, I wouldn’t rush to replace it with this from Pristine. Convert though I am to the Ambient Stereo re-mastering process, I do not think that on this occasion I would recommend this Pristine issue over the one from Sony.  

Ralph Moore

Masterwork Index: Goldberg Variations


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