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Re: GG - Ultra-romantic!! (was RE: GG and "romantic" interpretation)

On Mon, 3 Jun 2002, Frank Dean Dennowitz wrote:

> (...) I was just thinking to myself how "romantic" the
>'81 Goldbergs are in relation to the '55 ones. The final aria from the
>'81 recording is played so softly, sweetly and beautifully that I weep
>every time I hear it. (OK, maybe not weep, but occasionally my eyes mist
>up).  And the long variation (25th?) is beautiful, too.

Hmm.  That aria in that '81 recording of the Goldbergs reminds me so much
of the recording of Gould conducting the "Siegfried Idyll."  He has slowed
down the piece to such an unbelievable crawl, and is placing every note in
its rationally-determined position...there's nothing spontaneous or
capricious or passionate left in it.  It creates an interesting and
strange atmosphere, disembodied, almost timeless, serene in a way we
wouldn't normally expect.  Pure rationality, pure mind.  It's like trying
to court someone by saying, "Hey there, I love you...but just for my
disembodied mental picture of how your mind probably works.  Let's be all
mental and spiritual together."  And the most natural response to such a
proposal is, "Hmm, um, thanks...but, um, no thanks buddy, you're creeping
me out.  I want you to want *me*, not your rationalized idea of me."

> Anyway, my point is that surely "romantic" (as opposed to the Romantic
> period) is a subjective term. I can no more say that such and such a
> piece is romantic than you can say it's loud. Loud compared to what?

In contrast, the '55 and '54 and '59 performances of the Goldbergs (the
aria, and the whole piece) all have a more natural flow: the music coming
out with a sense of spontaneity and relaxation and a healthy amount of
subtle irrationality, like a living thing.

In the '81 Gould has replaced that with a bunch of mental musing *about*
the piece, instead of simply playing it.  At least, that's how it sounds
to me.  The '81 performance is so disembodied and neutral and impersonal
(see above) that a listener can inject anything of himself/herself into
it.  Quite a phenomenon, a triumph of pure rationality, a presentation of
structure with the actual experience left open for the listener's own
thoughts and feelings.  I'm not sure that it's Bach's music anymore, so
much as Gould playing himself (or some other idea) through the vehicle of
Bach's notes.  The sensuousness has been replaced by something else.
"Romantic" in any of its senses is not among the first 2000 words I'd
think of to describe this.  Extraordinary, yes, but I'm not thrilled by

Bradley Lehman, Dayton VA
home: http://i.am/bpl  or  http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl
CD's: http://listen.to/bpl or http://www.mp3.com/bpl

"Music must cause fire to flare up from the spirit - and not only sparks
from the clavier...." - Alfred Cortot