January 31, 2016

Glenn Gould - The Well Tempered Clavier, Book I (1963)


If it wasn't Joe Henderson or Hank Mobley being played in my house on weekend mornings when I was growing up then it was either Gould's recording of The Well Tempered Clavier, The English Suites, or Yo-Yo Ma or Rostropovich playing the cello suites. Bach's solo instrument compositions are often used for their educational/practice purposes for young players, but remain the perfect canvas for the most skilled artists in the world to showcase their styles. Glenn Gould is almost like the Thelonious Monk of the golden era of classical recordings when it comes to disregarding the 'rules' for how to play baroque music. Of course the piano was hardly existent when these compositions were penned and baroque music was dominated by the harpsichord, an instrument unable to change its volume or textures, so Bach wrote no dynamics into these pieces. Because of that, Gould was left free to play The Well Tempered Clavier how he wanted for Columbia Records. He digs deep and owns the compositions with his willful half-stumbling, half-gliding style. In my opinion there is little classical music that outdoes Bach's solo instrument musings, especially when Glenn Gould is playing.

The Well Tempered Clavier, Book I