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The Glenn Gould Edition - Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I

4.2 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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It's rather amazing today, when recordings of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier practically fall of the shelves, to recall just how unusual it was back in the 1960s for a pianist to undertake to record this amazing work. It's probably fair to say that until Glenn Gould got his fingers around it, Bach's music was used for teaching purposes more than anything else. What Gould proves in this essential set is that Bach is decidedly not just a threat to hold over the head of budding pianists but a joy to listen to. One of Gould's very greatest recordings. --David Hurwitz

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Prelude And Fugue No. 1 In C Major, BWV 846: Praeludium
  2. Prelude And Fugue No. 1 In C Major, BWV 846: Fuga
  3. Prelude And Fugue No. 2 In C Minor, BWV 847: Praeludium
  4. Prelude And Fugue No. 2 In C Minor, BWV 847: Fuga
  5. Prelude And Fugue No. 3 In C-Sharp Major, BWV 848: Praeludium
  6. Prelude And Fugue No. 3 In C-Sharp Major, BWV 848: Fuga
  7. Prelude And Fugue No. 3 In C-Sharp Minor, BWV 849: Praeludium
  8. Prelude And Fugue No. 3 In C-Sharp Minor, BWV 849: Fuga
  9. Prelude And Fugue No. 5 In D Major, BWV 850: Praeludium
  10. Prelude And Fugue No. 5 In D Major, BWV 850: Fuga
  11. Prelude And Fugue No. 6 In D Minor, BWV 851: Praeludium
  12. Prelude And Fugue No. 6 In D Minor, BWV 851: Fuga
  13. Prelude And Fugue No. 7 In E-Flat Major, BWV 852: Praeludium
  14. Prelude And Fugue No. 7 In E-Flat Major, BWV 852: Fuga
  15. Prelude In E-Flat Minor And Fugue In D-Sharp Minor No. 8, BWV 853: Praeludium
  16. Prelude In E-Flat Minor And Fugue In D-Sharp Minor No. 8, BWV 853: Fuga
  17. Prelude Fugue No. 9 In E Major, BWV 854: Praeludium
  18. Prelude Fugue No. 9 In E Major, BWV 854: Fuga
  19. Prelude And Fugue No. 10 In E Minor, BWV 855: Praeludium
  20. Prelude And Fugue No. 10 In E Minor, BWV 855: Fuga Fugue No. 10 In E Minor, BWV 855
  21. Prelude And Fugue No. 11 In F Major, BWV 856: Praeludium
  22. Prelude And Fugue No. 11 In F Major, BWV 856: Fuga
  23. Prelude And Fugue No. 12 In F Minor, BWV 857: Praeludium
  24. Prelude And Fugue No. 12 In F Minor, BWV 857: Fuga

Disc: 2

  1. Prelude And Fugue No.13 In F-Sharp Major, BWV 858: Praeludium
  2. Prelude And Fugue No.13 In F-Sharp Major, BWV 858: Fuga
  3. Prelude And Fugue No.14 In F-Sharp Minor, BWV 859: Praeludium
  4. Prelude And Fugue No.14 In F-Sharp Minor, BWV 859: Fuga
  5. Prelude And Fugue No.15 In G Major, BWV 860: Praeludium
  6. Prelude And Fugue No.15 In G Major, BWV 860: Fuga
  7. Prelude And Fugue No.16 In G Minor, BWV 861: Praeludium
  8. Prelude And Fugue No.16 In G Minor, BWV 861: Fuga
  9. Prelude And Fugue No.17 In A-Flat Major, BWV 862: Praeludium
  10. Prelude And Fugue No.17 In A-Flat Major, BWV 862: Fuga
  11. Prelude And Fugue No.18 In G-Sharp Minor, BWV 863: Praeludium
  12. Prelude And Fugue No.18 In G-Sharp Minor, BWV 863: Fuga
  13. Prelude And Fugue No.19 In A Major, BWV 864: Praeludium
  14. Prelude And Fugue No.19 In A Major, BWV 864: Fuga
  15. Prelude And Fugue No.20 In A Minor, BWV 865: Praeludium
  16. Prelude And Fugue No.20 In A Minor, BWV 865: Fuga
  17. Prelude And Fugue No.21 In B-Flat Major, BWV 866: Praeludium
  18. Prelude And Fugue No.21 In B-Flat Major, BWV 866: Fuga
  19. Prelude And Fugue No.22 In B-Flat Minor, BWV 867: Praeludium
  20. Prelude And Fugue No.22 In B-Flat Minor, BWV 867: Fuga
  21. Prelude And Fugue No.23 In B Major, BWV 868: Praeludium
  22. Prelude And Fugue No.23 In B Major, BWV 868: Fuga
  23. Prelude And Fugue No.24 In B Minor, BWV 869: Praeludium
  24. Prelude And Fugue No.24 In B Minor, BWV 869: Fuga


Product Details

  • Performer: Johann Sebastian Bach, Glenn Gould
  • Audio CD (January 11, 1994)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B0000028NI
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,486 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Glenn Gould's playing prompted the great George Szell to say, "That nut is a genius." Gould is indeed a controversial pianist. While he was responsible for resurgence in interest in Bach (along with Roselyn Tureck and some others), Gould's playing arouses tremendous passion both pro and con. For a while I subscribed to a use-list on Bach; the members argued so much about Gould that the web master had to intervene, and when that did not work she pulled the plug on the entire site.
Readers should know that I like Glenn Gould. His are not the only worthy interpretations of Bach, but they are indispensable if one is to get a broad and rounded picture of how this greatest of all composers is to be understood.
Gould learned Book One of the WTC from his mother. After he recorded it for Columbia (now Sony) he hardly ever played a selection from Book One again. On the other hand he made numerous recordings of various preludes and fugues from Book Two, both before and after his Columbia complete recording.
His interpretations are certainly unique. Comparing him with other great pianists you will find that he takes tempos that are slower or faster than more conventional versions. This drives some listeners crazy. For my taste I tend to prefer more individualistic performances, and therefore like Gould more than Schiff for example.
Other worthy interpretations of WTC are of course Edwin Fischer on EMI, Richter on Le Chant du Monde, and Schiff on Decca/London for comparison. Recordings of various individual preludes and fugues by Tureck are nearly always worthwhile.
The preludes and fugues of Book Two are a bit darker and more spiritual than those of Book One, and thus suited Gould's temperament more closely.
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It is rare for an artist to so totally inhabit a work as Gould does the WTC, Books 1 & 2. Particularly striking and moving is the singing quality Gould gives many of the preludes, reminding one of Bach's B minor mass rather than harpsichord performances of the same pieces.
The fugues are also remarkable for their clarity of line and the way Gould seems to effortlessly develop whatever it is that intrigues him in a given fugue. You can hear the joy in his playing as he plays a line which falls silent and then proceeds to work his way through a fugue's complexities toward the line's rebirth.
Although Gould critics often scoff at perceived idiosyncracies in his playing, I have difficulty believing that Bach - the master improviser - would not have approved of Gould's approach. The sprituality that one hears in Bach's cello and vocal works - a spirituality present, but to a lesser degree, in his keyboard works performed on harpsichord - is fully present in these piano performances.
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Someone who is already familiar with the WTCs, or who loves Glenn Gould, or both, would be the best audience for this performance. From the very first bars, with the flowing ascending theme played partly in a counter-intuitive staccato, the in-the-know listener can tell that this will be a highly idiosyncratic rendering. Sure enough, Gould willfully takes some pieces at half-speed, presumably to display the "inner structure", while others are played very fast, near the notes-per-second barrier.
It may well be true that Gould understood Bach better than any other pianist--his unexpected insights are certainly plentiful enough, however convincing they may or may not be. And Bach seems never to have been very specific about how he wanted his music played. However, a newcomer to this work would do well to begin with a more conventional reading. In the wrong hands the WTC's can be as dull as someone reciting the multiplication tables. Yet Gould's version, though faultless in execution and brimming with ideas, is just too distinctive, shall we say, to recommend as this work's bible performance.
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Gould's playing always raises debate, and leaves no one not either loving it or hating it. I for one, initilly disliked this record as I was brought up with more pianistic, romantic versions of the WTC in the style of for instance Andras Schiff. But it grows on you, and shortly it became my reference. No one gets close to his perfected way of managing micro tempi and strike the balance between drive and elegance, voice and flow. OK, I must admit, a he exposes more of the drive than elegance, and the voice handling sometimes tend to be at the extreme end. (And then I don't mean the occasional humming...)
I find the argument that we hear more of Gould than Bach in this recording amusing. I'd argue that most of the other recordings you will find on the shelves probably sound less like Bach than Gould's performance, but this I find, is in any case beside the point. In the days of Father Bach, improvisation was commonplace, and then we have the issue of the instrument (piano vs harpsichord). Few performers have looked into these issues deeper than Gould, but bottom line - I don't really care. I can fully hear Bach's intentions in his playing, and Gould's unique playing gives me plenty explore and get excited about.
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The Glenn Gould Edition - Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I
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