Glenn Gould's Interpretation Of 'Goldberg Variations'

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In this essay, I will be discussing Glenn Gould’s performance of the ‘Goldberg Variations’ recorded in 1955 and the relationship between the work, the performer, and the performance. I decided to choose this recording rather than the 1981 recording because it was performed when Glenn Gould was young and in his prime and I think it reflects his style of performance more clearly and gives a preview of sorts to the performances in the years following this recording. I prefer this recording because it is more lively and inviting. Many people argue that the 1981 version is more emotional than the 1951 but I think both are very emotional recordings, just different kinds of emotion.
When Bach released the ‘Goldberg Variations’, a set of 30 variations
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He writes, ‘This is an especially vulnerable practise in the music of Bach, which concedes neither tempo nor dynamic intention and I caution myself to restrain the enthusiasm of an interpretative conviction from identifying itself with the unalterable absolute of the composer’s will’. From this quote we can see that because no tempo or dynamic markings were given to the performer from Bach, Gould was very cautious about how he wanted to portray the variations and thought for a long time about what speeds/dynamics he would include. He talks about having to restrain himself from getting to brave or enthusiastic with the fear of straying too far from Bach’s intentions. Even though this recording is one of the fastest versions of the Variations, it is clear that Gould has thought out each variation both independently and with the idea of the piece as a whole in…show more content…
Not only was it successful in terms of commercial success, exceeding 2 million copies in the year 2000, it was also considered one of the greatest recordings of the 20th Century. In 1958, The Gramophone referred to Gould as ‘superior in every way’. No one could deny Gould’s extraordinary keyboard skills within his eccentric performances. When it was released in 1956, Gould’s ‘Goldberg Variations’ broke all records and is still considered one of the ten most significant and successful classical recordings of all time. Columbia records also caused a lot of enthusiasm for Gould’s recording by inviting critics to the studios to observe the sessions taking place. The critics reported back with a new curiosity in the throes of his
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