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Re: Pedal in Bach

Thayer A wrote:

> It was fairly recently that I first saw the Gould 81 Goldbergs video (to go
> off the point before I even start:- Does anybody know if there any
> differences with the audio recording? I heard that there is one G which is
> louder on the video but dubbed over more quietly for the tape, but I'm sure
> the first aria is different.)

I haven't compared them closely, but my impression was that they were
substantially different.  I remember reading one account of the sessions where
it was noted that GG had an inate sense of which takes would be suitable for
only the video or for either video or CD.  Presumably the picture part would
largely determine the takes for the video, assuming that there were no "clinkers"
as he liked to call mistakes ("clams", "going off the tracks", etc.) in the take.

> and was surprised to see how much pedal he
> actually uses. I'm particularly interested to know how frequently he
> actually used it for Bach (and other baroque music) and how much this
> changed throughout the periods of his life. In the liner notes for WTC1
> there is a mention of Gould playing the B flat minor entirely without pedal
> for a competion, at an early age.

Turek seems to have played a prominent role in GG's interpretive development
with regard to Bach.  He was quite enamoured early on with the idea of *not*
using the damper pedal, ostensibly as a means of making the piano more
harpsichord-like and in order to avoid some of the over-pedaled late Romantic
period pianistic misinterpretations of the baroque style ("hairpin" dynamics, lots
'o pedal, etc.).

> Does this mean that it was in later life
> he tended to use more pedal, or could it be that he was simply trying to
> make a point for this competion?

I doubt that he consciously wanted to use more pedal later.  I think it's really
a question of using the pedal in an organic way while playing the piano.

Let's face it;  playing Bach on a piano *is* a transcription (as has been
pointed out here often).  The modern grand piano is it's own thing and it
comes with a pedal, which is part of it's operating system.  There are certain
things that are going to be greatly assisted by moderate use of the pedal
and doing that organically, within a particular interpretation, is certainly
OK.  I'd bet that if you asked GG to tell you precisely where he had pedaled
in a particular piece, he probably couldn't have said without retracing his
steps (literally).  When pedaling is done organically, it's just a part of 
working the instrument.  Same thing with  being aware of individual fingers
in fast passage work.  GG often mentioned the "caterpillar" effect, where
if he deliberately thought about where each finger was going, it had the
effect of stopping the performance.  I doubt that he worked out the pedaling
very carefully.  It seems that he never (or very rarely) did that with fingering.
Those mechanical aspects of controlling the instrument were very much
second nature to him.

> In fact, was there any kind of consistency
> through the different periods of his playing, or did he simply use as much
> pedal as he felt like on the spur of the moment?

I think the latter, but I'd call his pedaling of Bach repertoire "judicious".

> Listening to the dryness of
> later recordings I had always imagined he used less pedal than in most
> earlier ones, but the Goldbergs seem to contradict this.

By "dryness", are you referring to the lack of reverberation or room sound
in the recording?  I'm not quite clear on what you mean here.

>         Having been brought up on the urban myth that Gould didn't know what
> the pedals are for, and having only seen the Goldbergs video...

Whoa, where did that one come from?  The guy had been playing pianos
pretty much since birth.  Hard to imagine that he was clueless about the
function of pedals!

> Did he actually talk about his views on the pedals at all?

Yes, particularly early on.
He advocated little if any use of the damper pedal in Bach interpretation.
as a good place to look into this.