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Variations Goldberg (version 1955)
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Glenn Gould et les Variations Goldberg. Quel couple et quelle rencontre ! L'oeuvre magistrale de Jean-Sébastien Bach habita la vie entière du pianiste canadien. Cet enregistrement est le premier réalisé par l'artiste le plus fantasque que le classique ait connu. Dès l'entame de l'Aria, on sent une extrême tension et une nécessité d'explosion de la part de Gould. Trente variations plus tard, l'Aria n'a rien perdu de son tourment. L'auditeur sera frappé par la nervosité impétueuse que contient chaque note du pianiste. Le chant de ce dernier capté par les micros de CBS traduit également cet état nerveux exceptionnel qui électrise la partition de Bach. --Pierre Graveleau
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Il y a tout d'abord ce jeu electrique, ce détachement de chaque voix qui fait que le contrepoint devient limpide, malgré la frénésie qui s'empare parfois des tempos.
Une maîtrise technique hallucinante, un swing inhabituel dans ce genre de répertoire qui, nullement malmené, en ressort rafraichi.
On est en droit de ne pas choisir entre cette jeune et impétueuse première version de 55 et la plus maitrisée (est-ce possible ?), plus sage aussi, version de 1981.
Sa virtuosité technique est stupéfiante.
Question : Est ce que l'enregistrement de 1955 est meilleur que sa reprise plus rigoureuse en 1981 ?
De nombreux critiques préfèrent l'enregistrement de 1955 pour sa seule virtuosité technique, alors que l'enregistrement de 1981 est considéré comme plus mûr.
Pour moi, il faut posséder les deux pour les raisons évoquées plus haut.
Toutefois, je vous conseil aussi l'enregistrement réalisé à Paris, en novembre 1933, par la grande Wanda Landowska, mais cette fois au clavecin.
c'est la maestria et la folie de ce génie aux doigts de feux.
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Now, I certainly believe that Landowska's rendition is the most well informed, and even the most revolutionary in terms of true period correctness (she was the first to record it for the harpsichord and with correct baroque ornamentation), and she had a musicality that made the listener believe they were listening to an orchestra instead of just a single keyboardist. Tureck's interpretation is so dancelike and pleasant. It sounds so free and happy, I get the image that there are dancers on the keys of her piano. She was really the one that showed that the Goldberg Variations could be performed on a piano without reverting to the overly romanticized versions that had dominated up to that time.
It was Landowska and Tureck two that allowed for what is arguably the most famous interpretation of the Goldbergs: Glenn Gould's 1955 recording. Inspired by Landowska's passion for early music done right, and Tureck's justified piano performance that stood out head and shoulders above the others, Gould combined the best elements of the two and added his own rhythmic and dynamic perfection to create a masterpiece of a recording. His tempi were (in general) nearly twice as fast as most performers', indeed as his own 1981 recording, which, in places, I prefer (refer to variations 1,5,10,14,16, and 29), yet he is always in control and never sounds like he's straining to get to the next note. His staccato and light touch give it wonderful bell-like clarity, and it's the closest you'll get to a harpsichord recording on a piano. Yes, his 1981 recording is more mature, but it's a difference in interpretation than technical prowess, and I think the choice between the two comes down to mood, and even, as mentioned above, to the individual variations.
This recording was his first studio recording, presenting all the fire and passion of a twenty three year old showing the world that he's got something to prove. An odd choice for a first recording, most pianists would probably be forced into some half-hearted renditions of Chopin or Mozart, but Gould knew what he was doing. 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, a future where (in a philosophy like Landowska's) old music was no longer quaint but revered and modern music didn't seek to "revolutionize" but instead sought to build upon. This was an increasingly prevalent attitude in the 1950's and 1960's thanks to people like Landowska, Harnoncourt, and, of course, Gould. We can see this philosophy in Durufle, De Falla (one of the first twentieth century composers to write for the harpsichord), and later Stravinsky. Gould's Goldbergs played no small part in Baroque's new birth. Do yourself a favor and get both of Gould's Goldbergs, Wanda Landowska's Goldbergs, and perhaps Koroliov's Goldbergs or Tatiana Nikolayeva's Goldbergs. You'll be quite glad you did.
If you are new to Glenn Gould, just remember that even now, twenty years after his death, his work remains controversial. Everyone agrees that he was a masterful pianist, one of the best ever, but many people just don't like his eccentric approach to Bach. They find the fast parts too fast, and slow is too slow. In the 1981 version, many object to Gould's tuneless humming in the background. Eccentric? You bet. But nobody else could even get away with it. "That nut is a genius," as Szell was once heard to quip.
Anyone who finds Gould too eccentric, or perverse, should try Angela Hewitt or Rosalyn Tureck. I love their versions of Goldberg Variations too! Rosalyn Tureck spent her entire career of about 60 years studying Bach, and recorded Goldberg Variations at least three times. All are excellent. Angela Hewitt is just masterful, and plays with sheer devotion.
Gould made an incisive breakthrough and showed that the formality and the Dionysian spirit may habit together, without those bitter presumptions or austere poses.
He impregnated the Goldberg variations with Mediterranean jubilee, effusiveness and radiant greenness. And this posture influenced a whole generation in all fields.
So those Goldberg carry on its own trademark. A historical reference by all accounts.
Indispensable collection piece.
HOWEVER, if despite my sales pitch you insist on purchasing just the '55 recording, this is the one to get because it's not only remastered, but it also includes two fugues from Book II of The Well-Tempered Clavier as a nice bonus. And a modicum of price comparing reveals that this also can be had VERY inexpensively.
I find it hard to fault this performance; Gould the perfectionist was not satisfied with it and would later return to rerecord it. He felt and I agree with him that on some of the parts he played to fast (maybe from the pure enthusiasm of making a first record). One other thing about this album and Gould in general was that he hummed. You will hear him hum on this album, the whole album. But it doesn't really distract you from enjoying the music.
This album is great to play while you are relaxing on a sunny afternoon or having casual conversation and want nice background music. There are some Variations that are played hard, some fast; but the majority is mid tempo and relaxing. Buy this album! Then buy his latter Goldberg Variations and see for yourself why critics debate over which is better.
For the record the 2nd Goldberg Variations was released in 81. He died shortly afterwards in 82. It was his last recording.