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Gould’s Favourite Piece but not his Favourite Piano

In Katie Hafner´s recent book; A Romance on Three Legs – Glenn Goulds Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano (2008), the author has avoided well known and often exaggerated stories concerning Gould´s eccentricity. Instead, she focuses on Gould´s musical perfectionism, which was, of course, also quite eccentric.
The main characters in the book are Gould, the Steinway grand of his choice—instrument number CD 318—and his piano technician Verne Edquist. When it was in transport at one point in 1971, this grand piano was subject to a terrible collision and could never be properly restored.
Therefore, ironically, neither of the two Gould recordings of J.S. Bach´s Goldberg Variations (1955 and 1981) were made on Gould´s favourite instrument.

The Aria is played here on a Yamaha grand, shortly before Gould´s death in October 1982.

Glenn Gould´s contribution to to the world of Bach performance was rich and complex.
In addition to adding to the incipient popularity of original instrumental ancient music movement in the 1960s and 70s, Gould´s interpretations taught us about the potential of articulation and tempo (never indicated in Bach’s scores).

In this Aria, Gould uses a slower tempo than usual, giving an improvisational basis for the theme with time to experience both the importance of articulation, baroque decorations and the free, singing melody in a slowly moving harmonic context.
His experiments with time and musical meter truly changed our ideas of how to play Bach.


/patrick

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