Thursday, September 25, 2008

Canadian Icon

Today is a red-letter day for pianophiles, Bachophiles and Canadian nationalists in general. Today marks the anniversary of the birth of the incomparable Glen Gould. Yeah, I can't hide it. I LOVE GLEN GOULD. In my humble opinion he is the greatest technically proficient pianist of the 20th century. Unfortunately Glen died shortly suffering a stroke in 1982, just a year after yours truly starting plunking around on an old upright.

I only have 2 Gould recordings in my CD library - but they are both gems. In the past couple years I've been able to get my hands on Gould's recordings of Bach's Goldberg Variations from 1955 (which pretty much launched his career) and from 1982. I can't really say that I prefer one recording over the other. I tend to lean toward the 1955 recording but, really they are both excellent. I've listened to a massive amount of Bach in the past 5-6 years alone and nothing from any other artist comes close to matching Gould.

Okay, one criticism of Gould's recordings if I can be so bold....and no its not his habit of humming along quite audibly with the music as he plays. Perhaps I'm just a boring old purist, but if I'm hearing a recording rather than a live performance, I much prefer to hear it as played all the way through and not spliced together from several different takes as Gould was wont to do. But then again, Glen Gould was a genius. Its hard to argue with that.

Ask the average Canadian to name a Canadian pianist and Glen Gould immediately springs to mind. Yes, Gould is a true Canadian icon and its good to know that Europeans don't have all the best concert pianists.


Mongoose said...

Wow, see, I hate Glenn Gould. Especially how he played Bach. I guess there really isn't anything we agree on, is there? LOL

Some Canadian pianists I like way better than Gould: Angela Hewitt, Janina Fialkowska, Marc-André Hamelin, Louis Lortie.

Way Way Up said...

I think one of the reasons for some not liking Gould is the "mechanicalness" of his playing. Bear in mind that Bach wrote his non-organ works not for piano but for the harpsichord. Playing Bach on a modern concert grand totally changes the character of the piece. (Apparently, Bach wasn't fond of early pianos (!)) Also, modern dynamic markings did not exist in Bach's day. When Bach is played the way most scholars agree it should be played, it can take some getting used to to the modern ear.

But the whole humming thing, I have to admit is a strange one. And he did criticize Mozart quit severely which takes a just a little nerve. :)

Mongoose said...

Oh, I always criticize Mozart quite severely. Just because that movie made him a popular hero doesn't mean his music is all that and a bag of chips.

Also I don't really care how scholars agree things should be played, if I am to listen to them, they are to be played the way I like them. But more to the point, if you're gonna say that you're playing Bach the way Bach thought it should sound, then you should be playing it on the harpsichord and not on the fortepiano. It makes no sense playing Bach on the piano and then saying that's how it "should" be played.

And that might be why I don't like Bach on the piano anyway... He wasn't writing for the piano. I love his choral and orchestral music, that's what he was really good at.

Way Way Up said...

I agree that "Amadeus" was a rather horrid flick, reducing Mozart to something of a stereotype. His genius was clearly recognized by and respected by many leading Viennese musicians, long before that sad excuse for a film came out.

Bach wrote a great deal of choral music because that was what his employers required of him. They are great treasures and it is unfortunate that many of these treasures are seldom recorded or performed today.