A State of Wonder: The Complete Goldberg Variations (1955 & 1981)by Glenn Gould
In 1955, Columbia Records released a recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations that introduced the musical world to Glenn Gould. The young Canadian pianist's joyous, quicksilver interpretation not only influenced subsequent generations of musicians, it also entirely altered Bach's public image. Some 25 years later, after retreating from concert life to devote his energy almost completely to recordings, Gould returned to Bach's great set of variations for what turned out to be one of his final discs. The two versions could hardly be more different; the intervening years brought a greater sense of the music's Apollonian serenity, seeming at once cooler yet somehow more emotionally engaging -- a beautiful Bachian paradox. The only flaw: lackluster sound, due to the limits of early digital technology. To celebrate what would have been Gould's 70th birthday in September, 2002, Sony Classical has packaged these two recordings together, along with studio outtakes from the 1955 sessions and a 1981 interview in which Gould discusses how his vision of the variations changed and why he felt compelled to record them a second time. As an added bonus, this time around the sound has been greatly improved, thanks to expert remastering by Sony's engineers. There is no finer introduction to Gould's art, or more touching tribute to his memory.
- Release Date:
- Goldberg Variations for keyboard, BWV 988 (1955 recording)
- Goldberg Variations for keyboard, BWV 988 (1981 recording)
- Glenn Gould discusses his performances of the Goldberg Variations with Tim Page (Interview)
- Studio Outtakes from the 1955 Goldberg Variations Recording Session
Performance CreditsGlenn Gould Primary Artist
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Prodigious keyboard technique along with a savant-like musicianship, and occasional bravura unheard since the age of Liszt. I have listened to and memorized Gould's interpretations of these pieces since I was 12 years old. I have learned to play most of these pieces by trying to imitate Gould's technique; I've often sprained my dorsal tendons doing so. I've learned that his hands are gargantuan both in size and power and no mere mortal may imitate them. Listen in on Euclidian precision coupled with volcanic angst, now crystalized into pure sound with these digitally perfected recordings. Sonic orgasm at its finest.
This is, of course, one the classic 20th century keyboard recordings. I was thrilled to find this package with the remastered 1981 recording. At the same time, I rediscovered the 1955. To be honest, I prefer the freshness of the 1955, and have simply listened to it over and over again in the car. The 1981 is growing on me, and I prefer some of the interpretations to the 1981. The interview disc, though important to listen to because of the insight, is clearly scripted and a good portion of the end is just a repeat of the 1981 recording. I would have preferred more insight from Gould. Overall, a great listening experience.
I bought "A State of Wonder" with a great expectation. The case is beautiful. CD No.3 is a gift. But CD No.2 made me confused. In fact the new 81 year edition in this "A State of Wonder" is not authentic. We should not take Glenn Gould back to the analog age. He, for the first time in the world, tried to do totally digital recording with the Goldberg Variations. Why do we need a subtly little more comfortable Yamaha piano sound? The new one has lost the dynamic range. All the notes are beautiful and plain as of ordinary piano-players. Gould was satisfied with the digital sound, wasn't he? He was surely confident on the new digital recording technology at that time. The new false 81 obsolete analog-to-digital version is a shame. Someone would have said that the old 81 version had an ugly sound. But I have never thought that the 81 version has a bad sound. It was beautiful. It is still beautiful. Shortly before Gould's 70'th birthday, Sony tired to announce that we have been listening a wrong sound for these 20 years.