Join 3,380 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Glenn Gould plays the Goldberg Variations
December 26, 2009 3:33 PM   Subscribe

Glenn Gould plays Clavier Ubung bestehend in einer ARIA mit verschiedenen Veraenderungen vors Clavicimbal mit 2 Manualen - also known as the Goldberg Variations. (previously)
posted by Joe Beese (44 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite

 
My favorite video of Glenn Gould.
posted by The White Hat at 4:03 PM on December 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wow, thanks! It's hard to pick a single favorite Glenn Gould anything, but god how I love to hear him play Beethoven sonatas sans schmaltz (and way faster than everybody else).
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:20 PM on December 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Earlier this week, while driving around, the radio (WQXR) was playing the Bach Italian Concerto on piano. I assumed it was GGould, but it sounded better than I remembered.
It turned out to be Murray Parahia, who plays it crispier than Gould.

So on returning to internetland, I explored youtube.
No Pariahia, but

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0FV9k9Ov5o --Gould plays movement 3 in 1959 and 1981 -- what it means to grow up (on hearing the 1959, I remarked "It sounds like he's being chased by a bear." I so witty!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8q1YKWGeaM&feature=related -- Wanda Landowska on harpsichord
The harpsichord sounds like twice as many people are playing, because, in effect, there are.
posted by hexatron at 4:27 PM on December 26, 2009


I need to listen/watch more Gould than I have. He's a terrifically inspirational performer, probably the only person who can play Bach and make me appreciate the music. (I've always found Bach's music to be a bit sterile for my tastes, but somehow when Gould plays the music comes alive somewhat.)

People here might find this video of Gould playing Mozart and discussing the music. He plays, calls the interpretation sterile, then slowly adds variations and talks about how he thinks they help contribute to an appreciation of the song's base architecture. "It works. I can only tell you that it works." I further was fascinated by his interpretation of Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca, which is played far slower than most interpretations and brings out a certain stately elegance I'm not used to in the song.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:29 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Murray Perahia on YouTube, for hexatron's and everyone else's enjoyment.
posted by seawallrunner at 4:32 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


The novice should be warned that Gould notoriously hated Mozart's music and his cycle of the sonatas is a universally reviled monument to perversity.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:35 PM on December 26, 2009


seawallrunner -- yes, but no Bach Italian Concerto 3rd Movement.
(Though the second movement, with its "Think VIOLIN, keyboard basher!" ethos, is really more interesting than the racing 3rd).
posted by hexatron at 4:41 PM on December 26, 2009


his cycle of the sonatas is a universally reviled monument to perversity

You say that like it's a bad thing.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:44 PM on December 26, 2009


MetaFilter: a universally reviled monument to perversity

I mean, c'mon. how could anyone resist?
posted by hippybear at 4:46 PM on December 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


These are wonderful links! It's interesting to listen to Gould (in Rory's link) wax postmodernist. And boy, does he make reeling out those variations look easy.
posted by sidereal at 4:54 PM on December 26, 2009


Joe: It's perverse to try and play a composer's music how he feels instead of how a composer feels? That's such a naive perspective.

Look, it's not like Glenn Gould went out and claimed that his interpretation was the Mozart interpretation. He's pretty upfront and honest about how he's varying the piece, and giving his opinion. The idea is that in a creative argument, he can explain why he hates Mozart, then other people can explain why they love Mozart, and both sides learn from one another and grow. Otherwise you're being awfully conservative.

When Jimi Hendrix played Bob Dylan, fans of both could admire how he interpreted a folk song and brought his own personality to it. When John Cale covered Hallelujah, he created almost an entirely new song that doesn't at all detract from Leonard Cohen's original. But when Gould covers Mozart, suddenly we have to revile it? Or is there something to that statement that I'm missing?
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:04 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Rory Marinich: "But when Gould covers Mozart, suddenly we have to revile it? Or is there something to that statement that I'm missing?"

The reliable Third Ear guide sez:

More than disappointing - in fact, downright disgusting - is Glenn Gould's traversal. He disdained Mozart and claims to set out here to show how bad this music really is. This is distorted, poorly conceived music-making, and unless you like to indulge in self-torture, avoid it.

And in The Glenn Gould Reader, the quirky Canuck himself says of his cycle "I've now done my worst by Mozart". He also reminisces "Mind you, I don't recall that any of my teachers were ever very thrilled about what I did to Mozart, either."

It would be one thing if Gould had an unorthodox but passionate attachment to the music. But quite the contrary: he repeatedly disparaged it. So I'm not inclined to approach his bizarre interpretations sympathetically.

For me: there's Uchida and then there's everyone else.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:33 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks... after a rather crappy holiday weekend, I allowed this to bring some peace...
posted by HuronBob at 5:38 PM on December 26, 2009


When Jimi Hendrix played Bob Dylan, fans of both could admire how he interpreted a folk song and brought his own personality to it. When John Cale covered Hallelujah, he created almost an entirely new song that doesn't at all detract from Leonard Cohen's original.

And when Bob Dylan covers Christmas songs...
posted by sidereal at 5:48 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Uchida plays Mozart with such wordless joy, I cry when I see her play. Gould added so much stylism to Bach that anyone else can either render Bach in a sterile, clinical manner, or be accused of imitation, perhaps rightfully. My partner loves Argerich's second Partita, but to me she plays everything way too fast, to the point that all that's left is appreciation for the clockwork, player-piano-roll, MIDIfied beauty in the piece. All the subtlety that Gould unveils disappears. That's his genius.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:56 PM on December 26, 2009


[this is gould]
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:00 PM on December 26, 2009


Joe Beese: Thanks for the clarification. I haven't listened to the entire Gould Mozart collection, and I've heard a lot of the music was awful; but the few pieces of the set I have heard were interesting and, on first listen, enjoyable takes on the music. Perhaps the pieces I haven't heard are as much mucky-muck as I've been told.

Your Uchida link is terrific. There's a lightness to her playing that I feel does Mozart absolute justice.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:01 PM on December 26, 2009


Thanks. It is always nice to see GG on the blue.

I seem to remember hearing an interview with the fellow who interviews Gould in the studio in these videos. Apparently, Gould had pre-scripted every single word, false start, etc of the interview and Gould insisted that they go on for hours and hours re-doing and re-doing at the slightest 'imperfection' in his tone/response/vocalization/etc. Truly a special man.
posted by jmccw at 6:25 PM on December 26, 2009


A fantastic pianist. A prickly question, however: Does anyone else not care that he hums throughout his performances? I'm sure (?) a concert audience could not hear it, but I cannot stand to listen to recordings of him playing - even with the obviously brilliant interpretation, it becomes incredibly distracting to hear his not-the-least-bit-musical vocalising.

Am I alone? Never have I heard it mentioned, in all the (deserved) plaudits for Mr. Gould, that he CANNOT and WILL NOT stop the infernal humming, but one would think that would be the first disclaimer to make, considering that apparently no one has had the balls to say it to his face.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 6:31 PM on December 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


(had had)
posted by gorgor_balabala at 6:32 PM on December 26, 2009


There's much to be gained by hearing things in unfamiliar tempos and in styles. Sometimes there are remarkable gems hidden in works that most interpreters rush over. Too many classics are so bound up in 'correct' performances that they cry out for some aufgeknepting.

So while I'm not a Gould fan, I can learn from his experiments. And I can feel his passion about the Goldbergs -- even though they can't be made into a silk purse he tries hard.
posted by Twang at 6:36 PM on December 26, 2009


I suspect that Glenn Gould existed somewhere on the asperger's/autism spectrum, watching his face, his vocalizations.. I imagine that many focused musicians/artists are on a bit of a different plane..
posted by HuronBob at 6:48 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


watching Uchida's hands at the end of the linked video could only make me think of spiders....

thanks to all for these links... they've made for a pleasant evening and a pledge to spend a bit more time listening to music!
posted by HuronBob at 6:51 PM on December 26, 2009


Twang: " And I can feel his passion about the Goldbergs -- even though they can't be made into a silk purse he tries hard."

[sound of bottle being broken. bar falls silent.]
posted by Joe Beese at 7:02 PM on December 26, 2009 [13 favorites]


Am I alone? Never have I heard it mentioned, in all the (deserved) plaudits for Mr. Gould, that he CANNOT and WILL NOT stop the infernal humming, but one would think that would be the first disclaimer to make, considering that apparently no one has had the balls to say it to his face.

That's one of the most well-known traits of Gould. A quick Metafilter search even reveals an FPP dedicated to the phenomenon.

I like it myself, just as I like Keith Jarrett's vocalizations. Nothing wrong with a man so excited about the music that he has to exhale it during the performance, unless it's somehow getting in the way of the music (and I don't believe it does).
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:03 PM on December 26, 2009


Someone said above that Bach was sterile, and I wondered if that commenter was familiar with the Busoni variations. In returning to them myself, I read linked from Wikipedia Busoni's own manuscript on music theory, Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music, from which copy at Google Books pages 2 and 3 are missing, so I include a link to a poorer copy of it at the Internet Archive, which has quite a few scanning errors. In the meantime, here are some quality renditions:
Evgeny Kissin, Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major, parts one, two and three
Chaconne in D Minor one, two

Strange, that one should feel major and minor as opposites. They both present the same face, now more joyous, now more serious; and a mere touch of the brush suffices to turn the one into the other. The passage from either to the other is easy and imperceptible; when it occurs frequently and swiftly, the two begin to shimmer and coalesce indistinguishably.
posted by nervousfritz at 7:20 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Does anyone else not care that he hums throughout his performances?

Lots of people care. I hate it myself.

I'm sure (?) a concert audience could not hear it

Nah, they heard it. It was frequently mentioned in reviews of his concert performances. It's filtered out as much as possible in his recordings.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:30 PM on December 26, 2009


I love his rendition of Moonlight. I'm amazed he turns the 2nd movement into something. I usually hear it as a distraction that players run through carelessly just to get it out of the way and get to the showoffy stuff. The real shock is how he plays the space between the notes. It's not just there to separate them -- it's part of the music.

Then he plays the 3rd with such cleanliness that even though he gets through it in record time, I feel like I hear the music instead of someone trying to say LOOKIT ME HOW FAST I AM while trying desperately to bang out all the notes before their piano sinks the rest of the way into the mud or something.

I'm still trying to like how he plays the 1st movement though - I'm not sure yet. I'll keep listening.

Thanks for this post!
posted by fritley at 7:34 PM on December 26, 2009


Does anyone else not care that he hums throughout his performances?

I like it. It's humanizing somehow. Bach's work does dwell up in the Empyrean somewhere, so it's kind of a relief to me to have someone there with me while I listen to it. The highest art is in making the silences weigh equally with the sounds, and I always think that Gould does manage that, even if he makes some odd vocalizations as he plays.

That may very well make no sense.

Also, I'm going to have to go find Gould's Mozart recordings. I think that I learn more from bad or poorly received versions of music than good versions. When you hear a bad version and then hear a good version it helps you calibrate your appraisal. I have a lot of truly terrible classical recordings that serve as bench-markers for the good stuff.
posted by winna at 8:42 PM on December 26, 2009


Here's Gould playing Mozart and answering some of your questions.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:08 PM on December 26, 2009


Previously.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:13 PM on December 26, 2009


Numerological trick: "Glenn Gould in conversation with Humphrey Burton about Beethoven's Piano Sonata No 30 in E Major (Op 109)."

I've noticed Keith Jarrett humming also. It not only doesn't bother me, it enhances the performance for me.

And seeing as how we're linking to our pet performances, here's one that blows me away every time I listen to it: Hideaki Yoshida plays Liszt's Funérailles
posted by Mike Buechel at 9:19 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd just like to say that the ferocity of some of these links have changed a lot of the thoughts I've had all my life concerning classical music. In a short period of time I've realized just how little I've appreciated the genre. Thanks to everybody sharing their favorite performances. They've helped me realize this is a genre vastly more impressive than I'd thought before. (I feel like I knew that intellectually, but never actually believed that until I heard some of these.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:08 PM on December 26, 2009


Variations On the Goldberg Variation
posted by hubs at 12:16 AM on December 27, 2009


Yeah, let's see Glenn Beck do that. Not so easy, eh?
posted by rainy at 1:54 AM on December 27, 2009


Or Glenn Branca, even.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 6:51 AM on December 27, 2009


My organ/harpsichord teacher at the University of Texas, Dr. Frank Speller, as also a one of those musicians who hummed whilst playing. He did it as much as a memory aid as anything.

When you memorize the long passages, you pretty much use whatever works.
posted by aldus_manutius at 10:20 AM on December 27, 2009


From Conversations with Glenn Gould: "If I could find an equalization system that would get rid of it, which I obviously haven't to date—if it occurred at only one frequency, a frequency that would be expendable in terms of the piano—I would cue it out in a second; to me it's not a valuable asset, it's just just an inevitable thing that has always been with me [...] It wasn't until 1966 or '67 that we started putting a baffle beside the piano, and that helped a bit.[...] The other thing about my singing is genuinely objectionable for people who lay out their $5.98 or whatever and say, "Gee, do I have to listen to that? It may be interesting as a document, but it's annoying as sound." Well, I would feel exactly the same way"
posted by domographer at 12:21 PM on December 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


By the way, Matthäuspassion is sufficient counter for the complaints about Bach being sterile, workmanlike etc.

(A youtube version)
posted by ersatz at 1:56 PM on December 27, 2009


Please, someone tell me where one can acquire a DVD of that bit where Gould discusses, then plays, Beethoven Op 109.
posted by e.e. coli at 2:38 PM on December 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most of the videos of this fpp and the thread are not available in germany, so if you get
"Dieses Video enthält Content von Sony Music Entertainment. Es ist in deinem Land nicht mehr verfügbar."
...you can bypass this regional block by entering the youtube-url into googles automatic translation tool
posted by ts;dr at 3:15 PM on December 27, 2009


I used to be real annoyed by Gould's humming. But then I watched a bunch of the Sony documentaries and suddenly after that, it didn't bother me anymore. Instead i started to like it! I think it was because it makes the performance more personal in some way. And i was only comfortable with the humming when i knew more about Gould as a person....
posted by storybored at 7:35 PM on December 27, 2009


Or Glenn Branca, even.

He'd play it with a hundred guitars, each playing but a single note.
posted by kersplunk at 6:04 AM on December 28, 2009


Mathematical
posted by HTuttle at 10:56 AM on December 28, 2009


« Older In 2002 the tiny Newfoundland fishing village of H...  |  Are your neighbors this tolera... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments