I’ve been mesmerized by Glenn Gould’s performances of Bach for years now. There are certain things in life that seem so pure and right that I don’t feel right analyzing them. His performances are one of those special things to me. They are alive and have this spirit that most other performances are sorely lacking.
I was just listening to Andras Schiff’s rendition of Bach’s Prelude in Fugue in c-minor, and although the playing is flawless, there’s something missing. There is a soul, but there seems to be a lack of purity to it. It’s as if other performers just play notes and Gould brings pieces to life. While listening to Schiff’s recording this all become a bit clearer to me…Gould seems to take a piece, read the notes, process them, and then reinterpret them. He is not really recomposing a piece, as he is putting extra life into it. He’ll do certain things you don’t agree with, but that is exactly what is so great about his readings of Bach. You can feel the anguish Gould has in his analysis of these compositions.
There are certain moments within Gould’s interpretations that one can’t help but just stop and feel the clarity in the music. It feels more as though he has solved something that the rest of us could not solve, than just bringing the music on the page to life. There are many that play, few that inject life.