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Re: later style

Jörgen Lundmark wrote:

> I know I've been down this road before, but I cannot let Bradley's statements go
> unquestioned. But before that, let me just say that I -- as many others have
> professed -- find Bradley's comments always very interesting, to the point and
> very knowledgeable.

Yep,  Bradley knows his stuff!  And nobody can accuse him of waffling on
his strong preference for early-period Gould (and conversely, his dislike of
the late-period recordings).

Over the years, I've been one of the voices on the other side of that debate
(sorry, listmembers are left to their own devices to dig up some meaty archival
links...). I have to say that I *much* prefer the second half of GG's work
over the
first half, for a variety of reasons.  I'll acknowledge that some of the early recordings
have a great "spontaneity" and freshness to their approach.  I particularly
like the
Brahms Intermezzo recording (1960?) and, oddly enough, the Strauss Enoch Arden
recording with Claude Rains (it just sounds like he's having fun).  I'm also
very fond
of the Inventions & Sinfonias recording ('64?) mainly due to Gould's obvious appreciation
of the material and the "hiccupy" piano sound, which I find entirely charming and
unique.  I think that CD318 had a wonderful sound to it, even when it was not
allowed recuperation after the various surgeries it endured.

Now, what I *don't* like about the early GG recordings:

1.  GG's annoying tendency to take many pieces 3x faster or slower than anybody
else on the planet had ever considered.  I understand that he wanted to put
his personal
"stamp" on each interpretation, but this seems like a pretty obvious ploy and,
in most
cases, the resulting interpretation not only didn't benefit from that
approach, but it
was pretty much musically indefensible as well.  Technique for the sake of technique
(Paganini, Lizst, et. al.) was something GG later spoke against fairly
strongly.  The
ultra-slow versions (Brahms/Bernstein, etc.) can probably be defended more easily
as providing fresh insights to the composition that might go unnoticed at more
usual tempos.

2.  The sound quality (particularly of the early recordings) is often compromised
and there is only so much corrective surgical assistance that digital
remastering can
offer.  Eventually, you get back (or close) to the problems on the original master
tape.   For many listeners, this won't be an issue, but for audiophile
engineer types,
it can be.  The later recordings (particularly at the Eaton Auditorium) sound
much better.

3.  Many of the early interpretations sound like a kid with fantastic
technical facility
throwing caution to the wind and just flaunting his admittedly virtuosic
abilities.  If
you're a big fan of performers with big, flashy technique, this probably comes across
well.  But I think that the music was not always well represented or thought out.
I think GG might have agreed, given that toward the end of his career, he
began to
systematically re-invent (and re-record) much of the work he had first
committed to tape
some 25 yrs. earlier.

4.  Some of the early recordings have such a "mannered" approach that they really
represent much more of Gould than the composer.  I guess that's OK, in the same
sense that you can enjoy a vocal by Bob Dylan while understanding that his pitch
is pretty horrendous.  But some of these interpretations are *so* mannered and
idiosyncratic that they seem to cross the line of reasonable interpretation.
In the late recordings, this happened less, because GG seemed less
consciously concerned with making every interpretation so strongly "personal".
Of course, at that point, he really didn't *need* to either since he'd become an
successful, critically-acclaimed and prominent musical artist.

By contrast, the later recordings seem much more balanced to me.  I see much less
personal ego inserted into the interpretive process and more careful highlighting
of what was *musically* important within the works.  Admittedly, there were episodes
of the "let's-just-put-this-on-tape-so-that-we-can-finish-the-set" approach
(Mozart sonatas
etc.) but even here, there were some moments of interpretive reason and insight.

> This definition of the performance goes absolutely contrary to my own experience
> with it. I cannot think of any other Bach performance, except the late Goldbergs,
> that has a more fulfilling sense of unity; and yes, this also goes for staccato
> second subject!

I agree.  I really like what he did with the first fugue from Art of The Fugue
and feel that his interpretation here is not hard to defend, if that matters.

And this is one piece that he had a pretty consistent vision of over
the years.  It's instructive to compare the version on the Bruno M. video
(early 80's?) with the "Off The Record" version from 1959 and see that not
that much changed.  I too feel that his solemn, introspective and melancholy
approach worked well for this piece.  After all, we have no period performances
of this work by Bach or anyone else to compare to.  Perhaps Bach didn't
even care about whether this piece had public performances or not, since
it may have been written with a pedagogical purpose, for aspiring
keyboardists and contrapuntalists.

regards to the list,