In 1955 Glenn Gould was just 22. By this young age he had already
achieved a great deal and this illustrious recording was to
launch his career into realms unimaginable. Taken down at Columbia’s
famous recording studio, with its 100 feet floor-space and ceilings,
this was an astounding achievement for such a young man. Gould’s
return to the same work in 1981 was the last production made
by this famous studio.
This CD is a “digital re-mastering” of the original,
however this historically important recording has been available
on CD for quite some time; Sony’s was released in 1992.
One must presume that this Audiophile Classics disc has a better
sound quality but the Sony recording is perfectly good in its
The performance is so youthful! The fast movements are very
fast, there are no repeats and some of the louder playing is
very aggressive. It doesn’t make for very good background
music; the performance is so brave and engaging that it is impossible
to concentrate on anything else. The tempo and truculence add
to the excitement one feels when listening. The 1981 re-recording
is toned down in these respects. Some critics interpret this
as Gould thinking better of his younger self and that he was
unhappy with this 1955 effort. This is not necessarily the case:
all performers interpret pieces differently each time they perform,
otherwise live performances would become redundant. The brief
notes in the CD booklet describe how Gould’s particular
gift was his articulation which enables the listener to discern
each contrapuntal part therefore exposing the underlying structure.
This is more obvious in later recordings but Variation 24 on
the present disc is particularly well articulated and balanced,
the middle part is just as prominent as the others. The opening
Aria is much, much slower on the 1981 recording, Gould really
pulls every ounce of emotion out of it. The 1955 recording doesn’t
attempt this and the Aria is played far more simply. Who is
to say which is better?
Overall, it is always a pleasure to listen to Glenn Gould’s
recordings and the sound quality on this one is certainly good.
It is also reasonably priced and nicely presented.
Masterwork Index: Goldberg