Gould and Goldberg

Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 (1955 Debut Recording)

This historic work of Johann Sebastian Bach was composed to provide a solution to a client’s insomnia. And let me tell you that it works for me! I don’t know how many times I have fallen into a deep, peaceful sleep while listening to this masterpiece!

Bach composed this music as a theme (called the Aria), followed by 30 variations. After the last variation, the Aria returns again for one last time. This is music created in the 1700’s, and it still brings immeasurable pleasure to millions of listeners today.

This recording is also historic because it represents the debut recording by the amazing, legendary Canadian pianist, Glenn Gould.

This recording was Gould’s first studio recording, presenting all the fire and passion of a twenty three year old showing the world that he’s got unusual capabilities as a performer. He must have known that the time was right for a Bach interpretation that paid homage to the greatness achieved in the past as well as one that strode confidently into the future. Gould’s Goldberg Variations played no small part in Baroque’s new birth during the 1950’s.

I love both of Glenn Gould’s versions of the Goldberg Variations. The first, from 1955 (this one), made him famous, while the last one in 1981 was his swan song. The 1981 version definitely has the fuller modern sound, and Gould goes deeper into Bach’s mysteries. Yet the original 1955 version is historic, the sound is still excellent, and Gould’s technique is just amazing! If you are new to Glenn Gould, just remember that even now, 28  years after his death, his playing remains controversial.

Everyone agrees that he was a masterful pianist, one of the best ever, but many people just don’t like his unique approach to Johann Sebastian Bach. They find the fast parts too fast, and often — for them —  Gould’s slow was too slow.

Conductor George Szell is supposed to have said: “That nut is a genius…”

As for me: I feel that his playing is inspirational!

Here is an audio recording of the 1955 Goldberg Variations:


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