Like the picture on the front jacket, these readings by Glenn Gould are kinda, juss-a-liddle-bit, suit with no tie...a bit of pretense backed up by grinding virtuosity and too much air in the playing. These "muscular", "masculine" suites lack the ear-to-ear exuberance that I love about Gould's recordings; he seems to be winking at a reflection of his youthful naivete, and trying to grow up as he hammers out each phrase.
I find myself getting lost in a rather unfelt first disk. Oh, how I hate to not love this collection! Gould is, to me, the definative Bach interpreter. I listen to his Bach, ignoring most other players, for that unqualified joy that gets implanted in the left rear channel of almost all of his recordings. This group just feels too serious, as if the takes he kept were the ones which sounded like all of the other pianists he might have compared himself to. A pretense I rue for its effect on these suites.
The second disk has it redemtion, however, in a first-up reading of 809 that sears and blasts out of the speakers, leaving a charred and crispy eardrum most heartily satisfied. Listen to this in the car, with amps tuned to "tweeter-death" and find a long, straight bit of highway. When my wife and I first listened to this after purchasing it, we kept looking at each other and laughing at how brilliant and exciting his reading is. It reminds one more of Rust In Peace era Megadeth; you really can hear the cymbal mutes and distorted, bass-ey guitars, and see the sweaty long-hairs jumping up and down, pummeling each other in utter, violent happiness.
Thus is Glenn Gould's performance of a cleverly written dance suite, virtuosic, amazing, textbook Bach. Don't sell the rest short, however - they just don't meet the criteria designated by the 809 reading. Worth amazon.com's cheap prices....oh yeah!