Thursday, July 3, 2014

Glenn Gould's "Bach's Goldberg Variations"

Tonight's music recommendation comes in the form of a complete album.

Glenn Gould playing Bach's "Goldberg Variations." it is best to think of this as one song, approximately 55min long, with 32 tracks. Also, please make sure you listen to the 1981 recording. Glenn recorded this piece twice (btw, he was a master pianist): once at the beginning of his career in 1955 (this recording helped launch him), and again in 1981 a year before his death. His second recording of this piece is one of the most beautiful moments in all music, by my estimation. He plays with a depth and breadth of emotion without making the experience a cloying affair.  
The first track sets you up for the sweet gentleness and romantic wistfulness of the piece to come; it is a one half of a pair of bookends that frame the joy and loss in mature grace. This leaves the second track to explode with vibrance, life and joy which continues through most of the music. Track 15 is a highlight of technical pianist proficiency where fingers defy the trappings and mechanics of sinew and bone and seem to play the keys with such lightness and speed that it is constantly exhilarating to hear. I should not be surprised were I to learn that 2 play that part and still I'd be impressed; but to know that one man, with but 10 fingers, played so deftly as to blur the staccato punctuation of the hammered strings into a river of music is truly awe inspiring. 
Yes, there is a sweet sadness to the music, but the listener isn't left alone to fend of this sadness as most of the music is alive and vibrant. 
I cannot recommend this piece enough to you. 

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