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Bach: Goldberg Variations

4.3 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews

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Audio CD, June 28, 1983
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Frequently Bought Together

  • Bach: Goldberg Variations
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  • Glenn Gould: A State of Wonder - The Complete Goldberg Variations 1955 & 1981
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  • Glenn Gould plays Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier Books I & II, BWV 846-893
Total price: $41.47
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The clear-cut rhythms, riveting articulation, and contrapuntal acumen of Glenn Gould's 1955 debut Goldberg Variations characterize this 1981 remake to strikingly different results. This later version is more deliberate in pacing, stark in expression, thoughtful with ornamentation, and tightly organized (if a mite theatrical) in terms of tempo relationships. Whereas there are no repeats from 1955, Gould now observes "A" section repeats in the canons, the Fughetta, and other fugue-like variations. The rapid, cross- handed sequences still dazzle with pinpointed fingerwork, yet the slower tempos better serve the music's dance-like qualities. Unlike Sony Classical's better sounding Glenn Gould Edition transfer, the original CBS Masterworks CD still has no banding cues. --Jed Distler
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Product Details

  • Performer: Glenn Gould
  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Audio CD (June 28, 1983)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: CBS Masterworks
  • Run Time: 51 minutes
  • ASIN: B0000025PM
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,680 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Glenn Gould had recorded two Goldbergs prior to this release: a digital effort from 1955 and a live Salzburg performance in 1959. Both are stunning, bursting with wit and vivacity - but there is something about his testamentary final version (finished just before his premature death, aged 50) that defeats not only his own efforts but those of every other pianist too. Gould himself was an odd fish, to say the least - he never slept (the Goldbergs were written by Bach for the insomniac Goldberg), ate little and was a chronic hypochondriac. Admirable was his love for animals - he had many dogs throughout his life - and his love of solitude (he conducted almost every relationship through the telephone). Such qualities are very important when considering the unmeasurable profundity of this recording - the love of innocence, the aversion to brutality, the childike playfulness are coloured by a deathly weariness and stoicism (hence the beautiful final aria, transcendentally slow, or the tired stubborness of number 1). This is one of those recordings that demands endless relistening - one discovers new things every time amidst the mass of detail and complexity (the diversity of articulation in number 25, the so-called 'black pearl' variation is a good example). His tone is otherwordly, sometimes akin to the sound of a xylophone, sometimes an organ - the glittering textures of Variation 6 or 13 are wondrous. Bach purists will perhaps hate this disc, but wrongly - it is a marvellous realisation of the score combined with a highly original personal vision. Brendel chides Gould for his Bach playing, on the grounds that he fails to bring out the composer's intentions.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
Glenn Gould is without a doubt one of the finest pianist of our time, though he was certainly excentric. This second recording of his of the Goldberg Variations by Johann Sebastian Bach, is his finest work in my opinion.
One thing that is distinctive of Glenn Gould, is the way he manages to play very fast, yet we can still clearly hear every single note. This is apparent in some of the variations here that are played very (too?) fast. But what I thought was extermely good in this recording, is the way Glenn Gould can be soft and touching at times, and hard and fast at other times. We are given the impression that Glenn Gould is telling us a story. The result is very satisfying.
But be warned. This is not Bach as it was intented to be. Lets forget that this is played on a piano for a minute. Glenn Gould's interpretation of the Goldberg Variations can shock some purists. First, like I said before, it is played extremely fast at times. I doubt this is what Bach had in mind. Also, Glenn Gould has this bad habit of putting stacattos everywhere. This is not as annoying as it can be in his interpretation of Bach's Well Tempered Clavier, but still.
Also, another warning for those who do not know of this pianist. Glenn Gould used to sing when he was playing. Not to loud. Just a little hum. But you can hear him on his recordings. If I recall well, he insisted his voice was left on the recordings, because he thought that removing his voice would hurt the quality of the recording.
So anyway, this is still my favourite interpretation of Bach's Goldberg Variations on piano. And it must be the most popular interpretation out there. I still prefer Kenneth Gilbert on the harpsicord, but it is definitely a must-buy if you ask me.
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By A Customer on August 26, 2000
Format: Audio CD
My discovery of Glenn Gould was a bit later, and much more irregular, than most classical music listeners. I was curious as to what could motivate Dr. Lechter, and his creator Thomas Harris, to such devotion.
The first purchased was the Sony 1955 edition, and I listened to it constantly while reading, working on the computer, or even taking a nap.
A few months later I ordered the 1982 recording and was astonished at the difference. The later recording had a much slower pace and seemed much more reflective to my un-tutored ear. I was so surprised I went out and purchased two other recordings: one by Chen Pi-hsien, on piano; and Anthony Newman, on harpsichord. There is a strange difference in the Pi-hsien recording to my un-educated ear; as if she doesn't strike the keys with the same power, and sharpness as Gould. The Newman quickly becomes boring due to the inflexability of that instument, though I presume it is closer to the original clavier for which the Variations were written.
Over the last year or so, I have given both Gould versions to friends, as well as bullying others to purchase it.
Try to listen to both variations of Gould's Goldberg Variations, and see which you prefer. While first impressions may remain strongest, and I still prefer Gould to others, I found a slightly more pleasant shift in timing in the later version.
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Format: Audio CD
Despite what everyone who I respect as my elders, betters and peers say, ANYTHING by Gould is fine by me! Now... Of the two recordings, 1955 & 1981, my preference is with the latter. I have indeed heard both, and while I respect the vivacity of the earlier recording and the sort of relentless tenacity that I love so much about Gould, I still prefer the more musically tame and mature later recording. As I am very close to studying them myself, I garuntee they will very closely reflect this recording's conception, though not completely. I simply cannot argue with any part of this recording. It has a tame, yet youthful feel throughout. Some variations are reckless, though I see no problem with that. One thing pianists shy away from greatly is having a good conception of what the piece would sound like if it was sung. Gould certainly takes it to the extreme and sings while he plays, but I find this very charming and refreshing. Which is a good way to describe my overall thoughts on the recording. It is a charming and refreshing take on one of my favorite pieces in the piano repetoire.
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