BACH: Concerto in F Major, BWV 971 “Italian” .; Partita No. 1 in B-flat Major, BWV 825; Partita No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 826; Concerto in D Minor after Alessandro Marcello; Chromatic Fantasy in D Minor – Glenn Gould, piano – Sony Classical

by | Nov 1, 2007 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

BACH: Concerto in F Major, BWV 971 “Italian” (rec. 1959; 1981); Partita No. 1 in B-flat Major, BWV 825; Partita No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 826; Concerto in D Minor after Alessandro Marcello, BWV 974; Chromatic Fantasy in D Minor, BWV 903a – Glenn Gould, piano

Sony Classical Great Performances 88697-00814-2,  72:05 ****:

This collation offers the same materials inscribed by Glenn Gould (1932-1982) in 1959, 1979, and 1981, previously issued (from CBS LP MS 6141) through the Glenn Gould Edition. Nonetheless, we immediately succumb to the Gould mystique: the piano made to imitate the staccati of the harpsichord, the immaculate clarity of the lines, the superb separation of the counterpoints, the fluid articulation of parts as the singing line expands, the brilliant, motoric evenness and rhythmic ferocity of execution. There are detractors, of course: Gould has little patience with repeats, and the sparseness of the sound testifies to a Schoenberg aesthetic supervising the realization of the whole. The young Gould always played as he and Bach were in league within a temenos or sacred space into which we had intruded; Gould’s later sound became fuller, more generous, and he let the pads of his fingers bestow a warmth that could be singularly absent in the early days of his CBS association. The 1981 Italian Concerto resonates a broader concepton, without the biting quality evident in 1959.

The 1959 Italian Concerto has great attacks and febrile energy; so does the Partita in B-flat Major, but the latter passes too quickly for my taste. I wind up marveling at the crispness of execution while the music becomes dancing dots or keyboard pinpricks. The C Minor Partita carries more musical girth, perhaps because of the breadth of the opening Sinfonia and the simple length of the individual movements. Still, the fierce geometry of the performances–their fearful symmetry–proves consistently mesmerizing, as in the Allemande of the C Minor Partita. The volatility and elan of the faster passages astound in their absolute, independent integrity of the hands. That Gould was himself “a miracle of rare device” is never in doubt. The Marcello arrangement enjoys both verve and ineluctability of pulse in the outer movements, and the ornaments ring forth in a manner nothing less than Venetian in sensibility. The Adagio, noted as an oboe solo with continuo, proceeds mysteriously and inwardly. Lastly, the Chromatic Fantasy (sans Fugue) moves breathlessly, a swirl of runs punctuated by the D Minor scale. Can we call Gould’s line “legato,” or is it some aggregate of individual pearls whose luster convinces us that unity exits in variety?

— Gary Lemco


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