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Re: Why people care about GG?

Let me join with Bob here and say that I think that the CBC documentaries stand with (and, in the case of the Solitude Trilogy, perhaps above) Gould's greatest piano accomplishments--and I consider Gould to be the greatest pianist of the 20th century. I suspect that interest in these documentaries will continue,and they will be fully appreciated someday,perhaps after all current list members have joined Glenn.
-----Original Message-----
From: Elmer Elevator <bobmer@javanet.com>
To: f_minor-og@email.rutgers.edu <f_minor-og@email.rutgers.edu>
Date: Wednesday, January 05, 2000 2:16 AM
Subject: Re: Why people care about GG?

> Do you think Glenn would have made recordings if he didn't need to?  I realize this is a poorly phrased question, but what I am getting at is how much do you really think GG cared about those who listen(ed) to his music?
> Any thoughts?
> Charlie
Don't you think if Bach wasn't forgotten and there would be no need in a reviver of his piano music, there would [be] no Gould: he would've dissolved in the vast ocean of other skilled pianists?

Juozas Rimas

No, I don't think this at all. It's only with our hindsight that we think Bach played some special role in Gould's career. (I, for example, first fell in love with Gould's Mozart; it was years before I discovered he didn't like Mozart, and years before I was at all interested in his or anyone's Bach. If Bach had never existed, Gould's recordings would still be the centerpiece of my classical collection.)

Gould the youth and young man was blossoming -- actually an exploding volcano seems a more apt image -- into an artist obsessed with not simply the possibilities of the keyboard, but of all music and eventually of all sound. (It's somewhat surprising to me that he didn't try to improve the piano itself -- does anyone know if he ever experimented with this?) He didn't need any particular composer to bring this vision and obsession to life and fruition.

His technical skills and talent alone would have landed him his youthful concerts and a recording contract. But more important than his Goldberg breakthrough was his unique abandonment of the concert stage to explore the complete possibilities of the recording studio. Amazingly after all Gould's success in the studio, I don't think another classical musical artist has ever dared to take so revolutionary a stance. It can't possibly be that all his pianist peers enjoy all the mandatory touring; rather I see it as a reflection of the unique strength of Gould's vision and decision. Many must have told him he was committing career suicide. (The mythic aspect of Gould's stance is reflected in the movie "Diva," about a coloratura soprano who only sings operas and concerts, but refuses ever to be recorded. She calls the mechanical capture of her voice "le viol" -- rape.)

How the world would have welcomed Gould under different "what if" scenarios is impossible to say. But what Gould would have made of himself under any circumstances is very clear: One way or the other, he would have created a huge volume of unique, remarkable achievements in the arts. He would have stood out like a beacon from his peers. And I'm certain many aspects of his style and personality and intellect would have caught the attention and admiration of many people like us even without Bach or the Goldberg Variations.

What is important -- harkening back to the first question in this thread -- is that Gould felt compelled throughout his life to communicate with a lot of people. Though personally shy, he had an enormous passion to be heard. Not by a mass audience like Petulia Clark or the Beatles -- this inherently involves commercial compromise -- but an audience looking, as he was, for perfection, rare beauty and emotion, for greatness. Chiefly through the piano and the composers he was interested in, he had messages for people. He could not have contented himself with playing the piano and being the only listener. Bach and Mozart and Gibbons had yet-unexpressed things to say to many people, and Gould saw himself as their best, perhaps their only true messenger, the decoder of their musical and emotional messages.

Listen to his CBC documentaries; we consider them something of a footnote or oddity in his career, but he was incapable of making ordinary, standard, predictable things in any field he set his hand to. They remain to this day deeply fascinating, entirely unique achievements in what can only be called, because of them, the Art of Radio.

In general, though, these trains of musing are best expressed with "If my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a roller skate."

Bob Merkin
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