Glenn Gould plays Bach

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Dynamic
WORKS: Preludes & Fugues, BWV 876, 878, 859, 891; Piano Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052; Italian Concerto, BWV 971; Partita No. 5 in G, BWV 829
PERFORMER: Glenn Gould (piano)


These radio studio recordings of Glenn Gould, captured in very decent sound by the Canadian Broadcasting Company, are among the earliest documents of his genius in playing JS Bach, always his supreme musical god. Made during his early twenties, they show his characteristic concern with articulation and lucidity, and his ability to weight each finger differently, so that even in dense fugal passages there is a clarity which would have enabled Mozart to copy down every note.


Miraculously Gould is not to be heard vocalising here: a pity the engineers didn’t pass on their secret to their successors. In the Concerto in D minor he is accompanied far better by Sir Ernest MacMillan and the Toronto Symphony than he is in the West Hill Radio Archives set (reviewed p62), and the recording is better too. All told this disc gives us the finest conspectus we have of Gould’s early playing of Bach, which in my view he never improved on. (For our in-depth feature on Gould, see p26). Michael Tanner