December 5, 2010

Glenn Gould Uber Alles

I've just gained enough sophistication about classical music that I'm starting to differentiate between good versions and bad versions of things, and I'm really jonesin' for the high octane stuff.  To that end, I've taken a dive head deep into the Glenn Gould oeuvre.

I tell you what, that guy's a freaking HAMMER.  Or rather, a lot of hammers just wailing away through piece after piece.  I find it all very breathtaking.  I also look forward to the day I find it all somewhat passe, though it's okay if I never do.

The Glenn Gould list:

Berg, Schoenberg, Krenek: Piano Sonatas
Bach: Two and Three Part Inventions
Bach: Partitas No. 5 & 6
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas
Bach: Italian Concerto, Partitas 1 & 2

And here's a video for good measure:

Sweet!  Any recommendations on where I should turn next will be greatly appreciated.

In Rotation:

Shellac:  Terraform
Loren Connors: Airs
Tyvek: Nothing Fits
Aurturo Benedetti Michelangeli: Debussy Images 1 & 2; Children's Corner
Urge Overkill: playlist
Tim Hecker: Harmony in Ultraviolet
Frank Frost: Frank Frost
Howlin' Wolf: Moanin' After Midnight
Group Doueh: Beatte Harab
Bud Powell: Jazz Giant
Frank Sinatra: Sinatra Sings His Greatest Hits
Cecil Taylor: Conquistador!
Arto Lindsay: Mundo Civilizado
Charles Ives: The Holidays Symphony
William Burroughs: Dead City Radio
Various: The Sounds of Excello Vol. I
Mike Cooper: Blue Guitar (Ten Songs for Guitar and Voice)
The Alban Berg Quartet: Debussy & Ravel - String Quartets
Various 7" singles by: Deerhunter, Lawrence English, Philip Jeck and Marcus Davidson, Sleep~Over, Wipers, Shellac, Beck, Dinosaur Jr., Electric Bunnies, Factums, Gaunt, Greenhorn, Little Claw, Pink Reason, Queen Victoria, Red Krayola, Skin Yard, Times New Viking, Sonic Youth, etc.

and, involuntarily, that fucking dogs barking "Jingle Bells" song, a version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by some modern R &  B diva who goes HORRIBLY FLAT at the end (makes my hair stand up every time), someone doing a really mediocre "Ave Maria" (is that a Christmas song?), the Muppets "Twelve Days of Christmas", that Chipmunks Christmas song, that really bad George Michael Christmas song, and, well, you get the picture.  This is just horrific.  I"m calling my union rep!  Oh, wait, no union . . .

Well, until next time . . .


mwhybark said...

you've seen the movie, right? please say yes. I am so with you on this stuff.

mwhybark said...

oh, and seriously, you MUST dig this:

Bill Zink said...

Alas, but my Glenn Gould fascination is yet to see its third week. I know the movie's out there, and I will track it down after the holidays.

And speaking of the holidays, thanks for the icepick in the forehead.

josh said...

Bill, did you re-post this piece? I could have sworn I left a comment on it a few days ago. Anyway, Gould's recording of Bach's Art of the Fugue is probably my personal favorite. He plays pipe organ on the first half of the album and piano on the second half. Amazing stuff. The live versions of the Goldberg Variations and the Three-part Inventions are also very, very good. Finally, there's a recording of Gould playing Brahms' Piano Concerto #1 you might like as well. It's conducted by Leonard Bernstein. The disc I have includes Bernstein's pre-concert speech to the audience as well as part of a radio interview with Gould.

The Bernstein speech is pretty cool. In it, Bernstein admits that it's only because of his deep respect for Gould as an artist that he is willing to conduct a soloist whose interpretation of a piece is such a radical departure from both the original score and what Bernstein himself would typically do.

Bill Zink said...

Thanks Josh - I'll be on those recordings as soon as I can hunt them down.

One of the reasons I finally decided to check Gould out is reading about his very public animosity toward Mozart. Not being much of a Mozart fan myself (much to the chagrin of my other classically-oriented friends) I really want to hear his Mozart recordings where, so I hear, he does his best to ridicule Wolfgang.

Also, I really need to shout out the blog Singer Saints (see the blogroll on my sidebar), where I heard much of this. It is the best music blog that I have found so far: not necessarily because of the music (though obviously that's a big part of it), but because of the strong (almost) narrative structure of the blog. If you look through the "In Rotation" list, you will see piano genius above and beyond Gould: Michelangeli (his Debussy is breathtakingly good, and his approach is a nice tonic to Gould's), Bud Powell (very interesting parallel to Gould), and Cecil Taylor (ditto). This narrative was suggested by Singer Saints. Everyone who has an interest in this should check it out.

And speaking of Bernstein, I've always found his writings and lectures more interesting/informative than his conducting.

josh said...

One more recommendation: Maurizio Pollini. He was a student of Michelangeli. Like Gould, he plays a lot of 2nd Viennese School, Brahms, and 20th-century composers (Nono, Boulez, et al). There's an excellent recording of Brahms' Piano Concerto #1 with Claudio Abbado (perhaps my favorite conductor) conducting and Pollini as soloist which provides a nice comparison with the Gould/Bernstein version. Pollini's recording of Schoenberg's The Piano Music is really good too.

Bill Zink said...

One of these days (probably several months into the future) I will have to do a piano post. When I was trying to create a headspace for Hoosier Pete, I spent a lot of time with Monk's London Sessions on Black Lion, Maro Ajemian's version of Cage's Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano, Aldo Ciccolini's Satie, and Ives's Songs and second Piano Sonata with Gilbert Kalish . . . all in a never ending (and, to varying degrees, futile) attempt to retreat from blues guitar.