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Bach: The Two and Three Part Inventions; Sinfonias

4.5 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Audio CD, June 6, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

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This new reissue of Glenn Gould's recording of Bach's Inventions enshrines one of his finest ventures into the work of the composer with whom Gould is indelibly identified. In the hands of most other keyboard artists these miniatures sound like student exercises, but Gould gives each one an individual profile, finding more to savor. As always with Gould, you'll notice details and secondary accompaniments often buried in a welter of notes. But you'll also find charm, as in the Sixth Invention; introspection, as in several of the Sinfonias, and lightening finger work, each note precisely articulated. The net result is a vivacity and listenability not always associated with these pieces. Gould's reading of the Sinfonia No. 9, played with spare beauty, is, like so much else here, very special for the intimacy it evokes. Fillers include some previously unreleased Sinfonias and unedited takes from the recording sessions that illustrate the pianist's perfectionism. Perhaps best of all, the remastered sound is much better than that on previous issues of the disc. --Dan Davis

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Invention No. 1 in C Major, BWV 772
  2. Sinfonia No. 1 in C Major, BWV 787
  3. Invention No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 773
  4. Sinfonia No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 788
  5. Invention No. 5 in E-Flat Major, BWV 776
  6. Sinfonia No. 5 in E-Flat Major, BWV 791
  7. Invention No. 14 in B-Flat Major, BWV 785
  8. Sinfonia No. 14 in B-Flat Major, BWV 800
  9. Invention No. 11 in G Minor, BWV 782
  10. Sinfonia No. 11 in G Minor, BWV 797
  11. Invention No. 10 in G Major, BWV 781
  12. Sinfonia No. 10 in G Major, BWV 796
  13. Invention No. 15 in B Minor, BWV 786
  14. Sinfonia No. 15 in B Minor, BWV 801
  15. Invention No. 7 in E Minor, BWV 778
  16. Sinfonia No. 7 in E Minor, BWV 793
  17. Invention No. 6 in E Major, BWV 777
  18. Sinfonia No. 6 in E Major, BWV 792
  19. Invention No. 13 in A Minor, BWV 784
  20. Sinfonia No. 13 in A Minor, BWV 799
  21. Invention No. 12 in A Major, BWV 783
  22. Sinfonia No. 12 in A Major, BWV 798
  23. Invention No. 3 in D Major, BWV 774
  24. Sinfonia No. 3 in D Major, BWV 789
  25. Invention No. 4 in D Minor, BWV 775
  26. Sinfonia No. 4 in D Minor, BWV 790
  27. Invention No. 8 in F Major, BWV 779
  28. Sinfonia No. 8 in F Major, BWV 794
  29. Invention No. 9 in F Minor, BWV 780
  30. Sinfonia No. 9 in F Minor, BWV 795
  31. Sinfonia No. 8 in F Major, BWV 794
  32. Sinfonia No. 15 in B Minor, BWV 801
  33. Sinfonia No. 9 in F Minor, BWV 795
  34. Sinfonia No. 8 in F Major, BWV 794
  35. Sinfonia No. 15 in B Minor, BWV 801
  36. Sinfonia No. 9 in F Minor, BWV 795


Product Details

  • Performer: Glenn Gould
  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Audio CD (June 6, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sony Classical
  • Run Time: 70 minutes
  • ASIN: B000F5FPZA
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #262,233 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Matthew D. White on June 4, 2005
Format: Audio CD
I first heard the Bach Inventions/Sinfonias in a performance by Andras Schiff, which is a terrific album in its own way, should you happen upon it. But nothing could have prepared me for the shock that the Gould performance is. Yet time and repeated listening has made this my own personal favorite performance, as it is one of the most original musical utterances anyone could find anywhere.

For the uninitiated Gould listener, this album is eyebrow-raising. Some might even find it vulgar and off-putting. There's many obstacles in the way: the piano in this recording has serious malfunction, with a pronounced "hiccup" heard in the low-middle range. You'll also have to contend with Gould's creaking, noisy chair, which sometimes makes it sound as if this album were recorded in front of a large bonfire. Then there's the oft-mentioned Gould vocalise, which is more audible than ever here. The tempos are almost bi-polar in nature; either excruciatingly slow or hyper-fast, with not too much gray area in between. If that proves anything, it's that Gould had an almost superhuman technique which allowed him to play clean at extremely fast tempos, and with a profound emotional depth at slower tempos. No one can play as well at slow tempos as Gould does.

It has gotten to the point where I don't even have to make any attempt to block out these extraneous sounds. It's all part of what is, in summation, one of the most highly original and musical Bach albums ever issued.
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Format: Audio CD
I have to smile at the constant complaints over Gould's many eccentricities, especially in this recording of Bach. If one puts on their memory cap, it is Bach who was the iconoclast of his day, the one who went to jail rather than conform, the one who established modern music with his advocacy of a "well-tempered" instrument. (One wonders what he would think of the incredible Symphonic organs that transformed composition and performance so drastically.)

I simply choose to ignore (or smile at) the occasional hum. When we deal with people we deal with their falacies. Good art is not sterile but (I prefer to think) important, creative and more than anything, human. I am not sure if Gould was not slyly trying to tick off the critics with some of his antics. After the Goldberg I was expecting big things from this album and I was not disappointed. Gould has an inimitable manner in which he seems to imbue each note with his entire being, with all the artistry that he possesses. He excells at structure and has the ability to rework the architecture of a piece (think of his Brahms), maintaining the form while emphasizing a phrase here, a pause there, bringing out an internal melody not apparent in other hands, pouring his soul into each note. He becomes his music as few artists are able to do.

The Inventions were sheer prefection and the 3-parts were even better. It goes without saying that the tone of the instrument was superb. Even after only a few seconds, one easily detects that Gould "touch" - the purity of tone, the clarity of note, the almost imagined hesitancy in the performance as if the artists were still searching for the best presentation. My grade: A
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Format: Audio CD
To get the terminology clear - the 3-part Bach `Inventions' also go by the name of `Sinfonias'. There are 15 2-part and 15 3-part Inventions, and on this disc they are presented grouped in pairs by key, one of each type per pair.

The liner-note makes rather a song and dance of its own about the piano used for the recordings. It apparently suffered certain vicissitudes in the course of being transported around north America, and the first attempts at using it for recording these works had to be abandoned. With patience and perseverance they all got it back into an acceptable condition, and Gould himself contributes a commentary on the matter. He points out certain shortcomings in the sound of the instrument which have then been acutely perceived by others although not so much by myself even after being told about them. The only objective fault I find is a curious subdued `tick', and I can only say that after a lifetime of putting up with far worse on LP this minor blemish gives me no problem whatsoever. As often there is some background vocalising by the maestro himself. This is quiet, it is only intermittent, it is at least tuneful and I am accustomed to it from Gould, and again I simply could not care less. What I would say is that I like the sound of the instrument in general rather less than on some of Gould's other recordings, and that is a perception of my own and not something I have been told to look for, but once again it bothers me very little indeed.

The playing itself is exactly as one would expect it to be. The touch is non-legato, the precision of the fingerwork is phenomenal, little or no use is made of the pedals, there is comparatively little in the way of dynamic variation but there are enormous contrasts in the speeds adopted.
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Format: Audio CD
When I was very small, I would be put to bed by seven or seven-thirty in the evening. I would have eaten at five and watched some cartoons on our eight-inch television. My father, an accomplished pianist whose occupation had nothing to do with music, would arrive from work between six and seven. He would eat dinner with mother soon after he arrived and would then sit down at the piano to relax. He always relaxed in the same way. He would play, over and over, the two- and three-part inventions and the Italian Concerto. If he missed a note he would go back to the beginning, always, and start again.

By the time he began playing I would be in bed, and the music would float upwards through the little house like faint scents I knew even then, lilacs perhaps, or roses. The sun would slowly go down, the light would slowly fade, and the music would gently go on and on and on. To me, Gould's quaint noises and the noises of his piano are very naturally part and parcel of the inventions and the Italian Concerto. I learned these pieces through my father's playing, as birds twittered in the twilight outside my window, while I heard my mother cleaning up the kitchen downstairs and listened to the settling of the house itself.

I feel sorry for those who've only known this music in concert halls or on records or CD's. Music like this can be and should be an integral part of daily life, blended with other normal human daily activities. (Including coughing and nose-blowing.) All such things enhance each other. The supposed imperfections of this recording, together with the perfection of Gould's playing, combine to make a whole far better than what we would have heard if the supposedly extraneous noises had been edited out. This is a superb presentation, just as it is, and any lover of either Bach or Gould should have it in their collection.
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