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GG: What Do Non-Fans Think?

Hi, everyone...

Carl Tait has been reposting the "greatest hits" of the Usenet newsgroup
re.music.classical...   some of the posts have been about Glenn Gould, and I
thought I would send them along to the list, for those who aren't able (or
willing  :->  ) to read the newsgroup.  It's always interesting to get a look
at other ideas about GG...  even if they aren't ones that I personally agree
with!!   Most of what this writer details as his dislikes about Gould are
things which I consider to have been among his strengths ( and I love the
"Siegfried Idyll", both in his orchestral and piano-transcription


Article 11595 of rec.music.classical:
From: coren@osf.org (Robert Coren)
Newsgroups: rec.music.classical
Subject: Glenn Gould's _Siegfried Idyll_
Message-ID: <22127@paperboy.OSF.ORG>
Date: 22 May 91 21:36:52 GMT
Sender: news@OSF.ORG
Organization: Open Software Foundation
Lines: 43

Well, today is Richard Wagner's birthday, and "Morning Pro Musica"
just had to celebrate. Obviously any single, large-scale work of
Wagner is a little long to fit into the last 2.5 hours of a 5-hour
program, so we get mostly excerpts. This is OK. But driving in to work
I had the (hopefully) unique experience of hearing what was said to be
Glenn Gould's last recording.

Huh? Glenn Gould? Wagner?

Well, this recording apparently contains two versions of the
_Siegfried Idyll_, which the station played back-to-back: Gould
playing his own piano transcription, and the original instrumentation
conducted by Glenn Gould (in his "conducting debut").

Well, leaving aside the question of the value of recording a piano
transcription of the _Siegfried Idyll_, I must say that, even given
that a speeding car is not the best environment for careful listening
:-), I don't recommend that you rush out and buy this. Much of the
"transcription" was barely recognizable; I couldn't tell whether it
was because it was a strange transcription (which it was) or whether
this was largely an effect of how it was played.

I've probably said before that I have mixed feelings about Gould: I
love some of his recordings, hate others, and find others interesting,
sometimes annoying, sometimes revealing. But this particular
performance contained everything that annoys me about Gould's playing:
the counterpoint brought out to a degree that completely masks the
principal melodic line; the inappropriate staccato; the
let's-see-if-we-can-make-this-last-forever tempos; the curious idea,
shared by no other musician that I know of, that trills in a slow
tempo should sound like they were notated in 16th-notes; and a general
sense that what one is supposed to be hearing is Gould, and that the
actual piece of music is secondary. The details were emphasized to
such a degree that there was no sense of line or structure. And he
managed to make it last half an hour.

I arrived at work about 10 minutes into the original-instrumentation
version; the approach here seemed somewhat more conventional, but this
one was going to take half an hour too.

Just thought I'd warn folks about what's lurking out there. :-)