Glenn Gould plays BACH – with Toronto Sym./ Sir Ernest MacMillan – IDIS

by | Oct 25, 2011 | Classical Reissue Reviews

Glenn Gould plays BACH = Partita No. 5 in G Major, BWV 829; Concerto in the Italian Style in F, BWV 971; Prelude and Fugue in E-flat Major, BWV 876; Prelude and Fugue in B-flat Minor, BWV 891; Prelude and Fugue in E Major, BWV 878; Prelude and Fugue in F-sharp Minor, BWV 883; Klavier Concerto in D Minor, BWV 1052 – Glenn Gould, piano/ Toronto Symphony Orchestra/ Sir Ernest MacMillan – IDIS 6614, 70:23 [Distr. By Qualiton] ****:
Canadian radio broadcasts (Toronto) 1952-1995 by the late Glenn Gould (1932-1982) grace this all-Bach CD, the sound good but the patina of Gould’s keyboard particularly hard. Gould’s pointillist approach, his conscious application of detached fingering to produce a harpsichord-like sonority from the piano, makes for idiosyncratic Bach; but the real awe in Gould derives from the boggling speed of his articulation combined with its distinctive clarity. One exception comes in the form of the Presto from the Italian Concerto (21 October 1952), whose uncanny velocity actually blurs the musical line.
Gould opens with a studied Partita No. 5 in G (4 October 1954) that avoids repeats, but the flourishes and singing figures in the evolving lines astonish. The sudden changes in acceleration become a tour de force in themselves. Gould’s manipulation of independent voices always proves miraculous, and the faster movements glide and purr so quickly we have to pay that much more attention in the Sarabande for its relatively relaxed serenity. The curious assemblage of Preludes and Fugues renders some special moments, as in the F-sharp Major’s wending chromatic harmony and dark-hued fugue. Gould’s work in the D Minor Concerto (29 March 1955) under Sir Ernest MacMillan (1893-1973) celebrates a long-fruitful relationship between the two musicians, though this measured, more expansive interpretation cannot compete in sheer nervous excitement with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw collaboration Gould enjoyed with Mitropoulos in 1958.
MacMillan applies a finely honed, toned-down dynamic level in the opening Allegro to achieve an intimacy and clarity we often lose in more blistering realizations. Gould’s elastic trill, like that of Rudolf Serkin, seems composed of a steel fiber incapable of decay. In the quick passages, Gould’s ability to volunteer ornaments and deft roulades simply adds more audacious strings to an already ripe harp. Unhappily, somewhere around 6:50, a vocal intrusion from another source enters for about 15 seconds. After a liquid Adagio that remains the soul of arioso moderation in the manner of the “passion“ music, the final Allegro break out in festive colors, heavily marcato but ever-busy in the string figures that accompany Gould’s flighty top line. When Gould does play legato, the effect proves warm and welcome. Seamless articulation from Gould and his Toronto ensemble glide us to the last of the ritornelli, the high spirits and intellectual energy infused into every note.
—Gary Lemco

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