Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1

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COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1
PERFORMER: Glenn Gould (piano); New York PO/Leonard Bernstein
CATALOGUE NO: SK 60675 ADD Reissue (1962, 1963
Music journalism offers few opportunities to the newshound: an affair such as Gouldgate is rare. Glenn Gould’s performance of Brahms’s First Piano Concerto with Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in April 1962 was preceded by what Bernstein called ‘a small disclaimer’, a warm and witty tribute to the genius of Gould – a friend with whom he had collaborated several times – in which Bernstein declared himself ‘not totally in agreement’ with Gould’s conception of the piece.

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The press pounced. Headlines screamed about a ‘duel’ between the two musicians. Now that the performance is available on CD we can hear what a fuss about nothing it was. Whatever the disagreements – inevitable between any thinking musicians – the performance reveals a harmony between orchestra and soloist that is serene and unbroken. Gould’s slow tempi are integral to a convincing and impeccably executed account which is marred only by a ropy recording and an audience that coughs so relentlessly one can scarcely hear the pianist sing. Christopher Wood