Monday, December 17, 2007

Glenn Gould at work

When I was still in college my uncle Ballard out of the blue gave me a copy of Glenn Gould's The Goldberg Variations, the 1981 revisitation of the piece that made him a big star back in 1955. I always thought the piece was deeply soulful, and that Bach must have been written on the occasion of the death or illness of some close buddy of his named Goldberg. Imagine my dismay to learn that it was -- according to legend at least -- a piece commissioned to ease the insomnia of some rich nobleman guy, who had a pianist named Goldberg. Go figure. So really it's just a piece of virtuosity.

Still, listening to Gould playing Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier is an altogether different experience. It doesn't even hint at the depth of the later Goldberg recording. Maybe that's just Gould sensing that his own days are numbered, as they indeed were at the time.