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Re: 70th birthday

Title: Re: 70th birthday

Dear F  Minors

I would like to thank Bob  for his post. (Sorry for the delayed reply) It was indeed a lovely tribute to Glenn Gould.

He says "  Well, forgive me for not being able to say anything important on this day "; but he has  said something important. He has expressed something that I guess we  on this list all feel: both a sense of wonder and a sense of gratitude for what Glenn Gould left us. In addition,he expressed the curiously personal quality that his gift of music has...as if he is playing for each of us alone, giving us our own private and individual musical experience. And yes, his death does seem to me too  like a  personal outrage; how could such a wonderful presence be snatched from us so prematurely and pointlessly?

The question of whether his recordings achieved near-perfection is something which   listeners must  each decide for themselves, since the concept of  artistic perfection must remain a highly individual matter. Perhaps true perfection is impossible to attain; but what  I hear when I listen to Gould is the striving towards this end, the refusal to accept anything that is second-best, the avowal that excellence is attainable...and the desire to share such beauty with everyone who chooses to listen. Yes,  there are  passages that do not attain these  heights, but in among these I believe there are odd moments when  we can  hear something that truly surpasses what most others can achieve.

Certainly, as Bradley has pointed out, Gould was a control freak when it came to the conditions he required in the  recording studio. But I think (admittedly I am no expert!) that this is natural and acceptable. With a live performance, yes, the conditions may change , may indeed be less than ideal; the unexpected may happen, the instrument itself may not one that the pianist would have chosen! Under such conditions it would be necessary to adapt, be flexible, maybe even try something new and untested. That is all part of the  delight of live performance; the pianist cannot be so totally in control.  Maybe even his mood alters, or he has something as prosaic as a bout of indigestion. So each performance. even of the same work, might be very different.

But Gould, for reasons he expressed very clearly, rejected live performance in favour of the recording studio. And in doing this he must have known that he was creating a legacy of music that people would listen to long after his death - even if he could not have guessed how soon that particular event would occur.

A live performance can be vivid and memorable simply because it is a one-off, an adaptation to the circumstances of the moment, not to be repeated. But a recording is designed to be repeated, and therefore it seems to me perfectly natural that Gould would feel a need to exclude (as far as possible) all unplanned and uncontrollable  circumstances that might influence his playing. He would be trrying to achieve a performance that would bear repeating, no matter where or when, no matter who was the listener.

I personally don't find his recordings lifeless or over-contrived in any way; on the contrary, I am always astounded by their clarity, their sense of purpose....and (on the whole!!!)  their beauty.    

And yes, F-minor has discussed every minute aspect of Gould's person and art, to an extent that would no doubt amaze him if he were able to read it. But my feeling is that this has been done with both affection and admiration;  he would recognise this, even if our speculations  might sometimes appear to him to be rather wide of the mark!

But  Bob's  post is not about such details, it is simply about the whole effect that Gould and his work has on us....and that, I guess is the reason we all joined F-minor in the first place.

As he says. it is a sad fact that there is no chance now that we could ever  meet him, write to him, hear his new recordings, or simply  thank him. But it seems to me that in F-minor we have a substitute; we can express whatever we want ...  to each other. And my, what passion and wonder some of these posts contain...!    I am very glad to have discovered this list (and to see that its membership seems to be increasing ) ....Long may it continue to flourish!