Friday, March 16, 2018

Glenn Gould's Goldberg Variations

Few musical pieces as beautiful as Glenn Gould’s interpretation of Bach’s Golberg variations.
“Columbia Masterworks’ recording director and his engineering colleagues are sympathetic veterans who accept as perfectly natural all artists’ studio rituals, foibles, or fancies. But even these hardy souls were surprised by the arrival of young Canadian pianist Glenn Gould and his ‘recording equipment’ for his first Columbia sessions. … It was a balmy June day, but Gould arrived in a coat, beret, muffler and gloves.”
The rest of the bulletin detailed the other peculiarities that Gould had brought along with him when recording J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations for the label.
These were many. Instead of nobly holding his head high with a proper recitalist’s posture, Gould’s modified piano bench allowed him to get his face right near the keys, where he would proceed to hum audibly while playing. He soaked his arms in hot water for up to 20 minutes before takes and brought a wide variety of pills. He also brought his own bottles of water, which, for 1955, was still something that seemed like only Howard Hughes would do. It was these initial, broadly trumpeted peculiarities that helped shape the Gould myth throughout his too-short life, the audacious genius who slightly unsettled everyone around him. 

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