J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Goldberg Variations

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Glenn Gould
Individual Works:The Goldberg Variations BWV 988
Fugue in F#, BWV 883
Fugue in E, BWV 878
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:Columbia
Year Released/Recorded:1955
Gould's performance was a relevelation, bringing to light a multiplicity of distinct lines within the variations.

I was happy to see the large number of recommendations for the Goldbergs, but was surprised to see that no one mentioned one of the classic love-it-or-hate it-recordings of all time: the Goldbergs with Glenn Gould. While I admire the ghostliness of Landowska and the long leisurely pace of Malcomb (all repeats, nice ornamentation), nothing can prepare the hearer for the crystalline clarity of Gould. His two hands are independent entities that somehow reveal the counterpoint in a way that defies one to do anything else while listening to them. There is an intensity to every note that is difficult to convey in print. The 55 version of his youth is taken at breathtaking speed, making the clarity all the more remarkable. As he aged, he slowed down, not a bit, but as with all the exceeses that marked his life and work, a lot. So that his second recording shortly before his tragically early death, takes the introduction at a pace so leisurely as to defy belief--but it works. The rest of his second performance is eqally eminent, but I find myself more often going back to the springtime performance of 55, nicely (for once) transferred from a really awful vinyl disk to a CD of much merit. Enjoy--then compare.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • David Dodd
  • John Wickstrom
Date First Submitted:05/20/1995