WORKS: French Suites, BWV 812, 813, 814, 815, 816, 817; Overture, BWV 831
PERFORMER: Glenn Gould (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SM2K 52609 ADD
The inimitable and incomparable Glenn Gould is revealed in these five sets in all his glory, idiosyncrasy and downright crankiness. He is full of surprises: just when his obsessively careful and mannered articulations start to irritate, you can be presented in the next piece with a performance of such freshness and persuasiveness that all is instandy forgotten and forgiven.
This is particularly clear in the Mozart sonatas, which range from a draggingly mannered A major, K331, to the sparkling, lively conversations of the earlier K279 and 280. The contrast is also evident in the solo Bach: the English Suites are powerful and masterly while the smaller-scale French Suites can seem overwhelmed by detail (I prefer the simpler approach of Andras Schiff on Decca). In the sonatas, Laredo and Rose make excellent partners for him – astonishingly, the different styles of string players (singing and Romantic) and pianist (lively and tending to fussiness) do not conflict but complement one another very well, for the most part.
As for the Schoenberg, this is highly recommended, even to the Schoenberg-shy. Gould is clearly in total sympathy with the composer and provides performances of solo, orchestral and chamber works alike which communicate very strongly. I particularly enjoyed the superb Piano Concerto; a previously unreleased recording of Gould conducting part of Pierrot lunaire adds rarity value. Jessica Duchen