Top positive review
One person found this helpful
Personal opinions about Gould's playing and vocalising will determine whether this CD is a 'must buy'
on 16 August 2014
I thought that this CD might be a good entry into Gould’s idiosyncratic playing. I do not mind his oral accompaniment as much as some people and this characteristic should come as no surprise. I also appreciated the inclusion of works played on the rather wheezy pipe organ [All Saints’ Anglican Church, Toronto, and New York’s Teological Chapel in early 1962] and piano [CBS Radio and TV broadcasts, 1967 and 1981, respectively, and at Eaton’s Auditorium, Toronto, 1980].
Gould, 1932-82, plays Contrapuncti I-IX on the organ and Contrapuncti I, II, IV, IX, XI, XIII and XIV on the piano as well as the Prelude and Fugue on the name of B. A. C. H., BWV 898. Gould considered that ‘there’s never been anything more beautiful in all of music than the monumental and unfinished Contrapunctus XIV.
This was Gould’s only organ recording, plans for further recordings being abandoned by Columbia, perhaps because of the hostile critical reviews to the original LP. Speaking later, Gould described preparing for the recording on the piano, only moving to the organ at the last moment. My favourite recording is by the blind organist, Helmut Walcha [1907-91] who is considerably slower than Gould over Contrapuncti I-IX, 39 mins against 31 minutes.
Gould’s phrasing and articulation is worthy of repeated listening but I was left with the feeling that I was party to some intense quasi-religious experience that was unfolding inside the artist’s head. This created a barrier between myself and the music. The contrast between Contrapuncti I, II, IV and IX played on the organ and piano is remarkable, almost as if two different artists were playing.
Since opinions about Gould’s playing of Bach will continue to be fiercely debated, this cannot be recommended unreservedly. However, it is well worth hearing and is obviously an important offering within the diversity of responses to one of the greatest achievements of Western music.
The anonymous text was particularly informative about Gould’s approach to Bach.