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Re: GG: Gibbons and a certain English conservative privacy(?)

On Mon, 20 Jan 1997, Joseph Podlesnik wrote:

> For you and anyone else interested, please give the Salisbury Pavan a good
> listen. Incredibly beautiful. It's always been such a solemn and revelatory
> piece for me. I always brace for that "one excruciatingly expressive
> instance of an alto G-natural at odds with a G-sharp in the tenor..."
> (taken from GG's original liner notes from the CBS LP of the same name. You
> also can find this in Tim Page's "GG Reader".) 

I don't want to sound like a complete curmudgeon here, given that I've
just said that I think GG's Italian Ground is played too fast.  But the
spot in question in the Salisbury Pavan is much more linearly expressive
and poignant and natural-sounding when the piece is played in more
historically appropriate keyboard temperaments, especially 1/4-comma
meantone.  Equal temperament of a piano certainly isn't it, no matter how
well it's played.  GG is at the mercy of playing grossly out of tune

In a temperament where major thirds are the correct acoustical size (e.g. 
1/4-comma meantone and related systems), the word "chromatic" actually
refers to an effect of "color change" as one would expect.  When played as
thirds above an E, G and G# sound like different colors of the same note,
being not very far apart from one another.  Therefore, when they happen
simultaneously in different voices (as cross-relations) it's not some
jarring weird thing, but a subtle play of shading and color, no startling
dissonance (especially not startling if one knows other works of Gibbons
and especially Tallis).  This spot in the Salisbury Pavan is a natural
result of the way independent voices come together.  No "bracing for it"
is necessary.  In equal temperament the overall texture is merely a
general wash of gray, and this crunch of G/G# sounds more out of place,
more disturbingly self-important than it is.

Anybody know of Gould ever addressing issues of keyboard temperament? 
It's a huge world of possibility that to my knowledge he never explored. 

Secondary point on Gould and the Salisbury: he plays the concluding
measures twice as slowly as they are in some of the sources.  I find it
jarring when he suddenly pulls back to half-speed like that.  And the
entire performance is near the breaking point of being too slow already:
not much of a dance left.  He gets a strong mood out of it, though (as he
does with the Siegfried Idyll and Beethoven's 6th Symphony, also both
extraordinarily slow). 

Bradley Lehman, bpl@umich.edu       http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/