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Bach: Goldberg Variations 1955 (Re-performances) / Gould


Release Date: 05/29/2007 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 703350   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Glenn Gould
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mixed 
Length: 1 Hours 17 Mins. 

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SuperAudio CD:  $14.99
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

Glenn Gould's 1955 Goldberg Variations has held iconic appeal since its initial release more than a half-century ago. Each new CD remastering has improved upon its predecessor, wringing further detail and ambient information from the master tape. However, this latest incarnation encompasses something altogether different. John Q. Walker, founder of the Zenph Studios, calls it a "re-performance". Under Walker's direction, Zenph has developed a software process that analyzes a recorded piano performance by separating its pianistic attributes from mechanical and environmental factors to an unprecedented degree of specificity and
Read more refinement. The information then is encoded to high-definition MIDI files and played through a nine-foot Yamaha Disklavier Pro. This instrument claims to reproduce MIDI files with eight times the precision of Disklaviers marketed for home use. In other words, the musical performance is liberated from the recorded artifact itself. Goodbye to 1955 mono, and to studio noises like piano bench squeaks and foot stomps. And goodbye to Gould humming along.

Two "re-performances" are offered here: one in stereo surround sound, the other recorded from a binaural stereo "headphone" perspective where omnidirectional microphones are placed in the ear canals of a dummy head situated not far above the keyboard. Do the results resemble Glenn Gould? The recordings certainly sound "Gouldian", in that they accurately mirror the pianist's contrapuntal clarity, chord balances, accents, dynamic shifts, pedaling, and hair-trigger precision. A few details even appear more precise than in 1955, such as the ever-so-tiny split bass note in Variation 12's first measure, corrected here. Yet the intensity behind note attacks seems softened, possibly due to the Yamaha's heftier, rounder overall sonority, along with the surround sound ambience that markedly contrasts to the close-up dryness Gould often favored in his recordings.

I actually prefer the binaural version, which yields a more intimate and focused ambience that better suits this repertoire. I wouldn't look to this disc as a replacement for the original 1955 benchmark any more than I'd choose a brilliantly colorized DVD of Citizen Kane over Orson Welles' original black and white film, intelligently restored. In all, Gould fans will find this project as fascinating and controversial as the pianist was himself.

--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1. Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Glenn Gould (MIDI Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1741-1742; Nuremberg, Germany 
Venue:  Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto, Ontario 
Length: 38 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is a stereo recording.
Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto, Ontario (09/25/2006 - 09/26/2006)
Composition written: Nuremberg, Germany (1741 - 1742). 

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