The Glenn Gould Edition - Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I

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It's rather amazing today, when recordings of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier practically fall of the shelves, to recall just how unusual it was back in the 1960s for a pianist to undertake to record this amazing work. It's probably fair to say that until Glenn Gould got his fingers around it, Bach's music was used for teaching purposes more than anything else. What Gould proves in this essential set is that Bach is decidedly not just a threat to hold over the head of budding pianists but a joy to listen to. One of Gould's very greatest recordings. --David Hurwitz

Customer Reviews:

  • Bach as music.....
    This is Bach as music, not an academic exercise. Glenn Gould reveals the passion in this music. It will always be a mystery as to how anyone cannot love Mr. Gould's interpretation of Bach's music. He loved this music and that shows in his playing. Bach was not a middle class burgher, but a rebel in his time who quietly accepted nothing. His love of life and his struggle to maintain his dignity are in his music and Mr. Gould's interpretation of it will never be matched....more info
  • Bach personified
    For lovers of Bach this recording is essential. It is filled with the magic of bach at his finest. Many popular and legendary composers/musicians feel that the Well Tempered Clavier is a milestone for all who need insight into the world of western music as we know it today. As far as this particular recording, Gould's majesty shines through (as does with most of his recordings) in an effort to display such a significant piece. I had done abit of research on this recording and found that Gould slaved over all of his recordings in order to achieve the finest possible results. His extensive experiments with microphone positioning, technique with the piano and use of the control boards in the studio is only to our advantage as listeners and this recording is certainly no exception. A must for any library....more info
    This magnificent performance must be considered the definitive Bach for our time. The independence of the individual voices is simply breathtaking. Gould plays each voice with its own sound--as many as four simultaneously. In the more complex fugues, the pianism is unique. Fischer, Richter, and Kocsis can stand in the wings. They use tons of pedal, which only serves to blur the individual voices. But, even when they are able to accomplish the fingerwork reasonably well, they can only produce contrapuntal effects that may be technically adequate, but are unable to even begin to approach Gould's singular ability to give each voice a sound of its own, while playing the voices against each other. What more can one say? Listen, and marvel. The likes of this level of playing will not be heard again in our lifetime. If you like this, get Gould's Italian Concerto by Bach, and you will be speechless....more info
  • Fascinating
    I was quite surprised to read other reviewer's comments about Gould not following Bach's 'intentions'. Given that there is one prelude with a tempo mark and almost no dynamic markings in the entire 48, it would be hard to find his intentions except by assuming that the tradition is 100 % accurate. I find this recording interesting, most of all because of the lack these days of originality. Gould was original, but that was not his goal. He had a connection with the music of Bach and felt that he had something to say with it that no one else had. It's refreshing to hear something so sincerely original as these unconventional renditions. The fugues are especially amazing. His control over each voice is nothing short of spectacular. I highly recommend this to anyone who is tired of hearing the Prelude in C major played the same way by everyone else....more info
  • Glen Gould sings Bach's WTC
    The rendition of the music itself is fine. The problem is that if you listen closely (or on headphones) you can actually hear Glen dramatically "Tumm tum TA tumm" -ing to himself as he plays (especially on the second disc), which is infuriating in and of itself, and then exacerbated by his less than melodious voice. The net effect is that it ruins the CD. This was a total waste of money, and I'd discourage anyone from buying this rendition of WTC....more info
  • Bach's individual fugual voices are crystal clear
    I laughed out loud reading the extreme range of these reviews; some reviewers felt a need to not only insult Gould but anyone who recommended the CD as well (!) Well, you can place me squarely in the "You need this CD" category; this is my favorite WTC performance, and one of my favorite classical recordings. Gould seperates and clarifies the individual fugal voices like no other; to me at least, listening to this is a Bach experience of the highest order. ...more info
    Amazing recording. Although I have 15 records of the WTC I/II with other performers, this remains my absolute favourite. On can always argue that Gould somewhat eccentric playing isn't Bach, but who cares? If you want historical clones, try the harpsichord versions. I am sure that Bach would strngly approve of Herr Gould's way of playing!

    Strongly recommended record of the music litterature's standard works. Necessary in every music lover's home (goes for the Gould WCT II as well)....more info

  • The genius of a madman
    Of all the pianists in my collection Gould and Lipati stand out as men of unequalled genius.

    How many times have you had a musically sophisticated guest have his mouth hang open, and ask again and again to hear a prelude from the WTC just one more time?

    Sure Gould was nuts, but nuts with the gift of the gods....more info
  • For fans of Gould only
    One wonders, while listening to Gould's rendition of the venerable Well-Tempered Clavier, whether one is hearing more of Bach or of Gould?

    His highly personal performance - as articulated and "refreshing" as it sometimes is - should not by any means be the recording of choice for someone just getting acquainted with this masterpiece, or for one seriously interested in Bach's work: Gould's approach is far too idiosyncratic.

    There are many other recorded versions of the Well-Tempered Clavier (books I and II) on the market: Andras Schiff, Vladimir Feltsman, Jeno Jando, Frederich Gulda...; many of these offer Bach delivered in much more pianistic - and much less eccentric! - terms, than Gould....more info

  • As spiritual a recording of this music as you will ever find
    It is rare for an artist to so totally inhabit a work as Gould does the WTC, Books 1 & 2. Particularly striking and moving is the singing quality Gould gives many of the preludes, reminding one of Bach's B minor mass rather than harpsichord performances of the same pieces.

    The fugues are also remarkable for their clarity of line and the way Gould seems to effortlessly develop whatever it is that intrigues him in a given fugue. You can hear the joy in his playing as he plays a line which falls silent and then proceeds to work his way through a fugue's complexities toward the line's rebirth.

    Although Gould critics often scoff at perceived idiosyncracies in his playing, I have difficulty believing that Bach - the master improviser - would not have approved of Gould's approach. The sprituality that one hears in Bach's cello and vocal works - a spirituality present, but to a lesser degree, in his keyboard works performed on harpsichord - is fully present in these piano performances....more info

  • Fundamental issue!
    Glenn Gould once more gave a personal but convincing and honest performance of this giant work: he emphasizes the cantabile line and the tune with febrile lyricism. The seventh Prelude of the Second book and the tenth prelude of the First Book are mesmerizing. The use of the tonal color in last instance establishes the difference.
    The Well Tempered clavier still remains as one the milestones treasures in the musical story. Not only was the model used by Beethoven in his Diabelli Variations but also, changed all the previous notions and threw out the trivial role of the music for the rest of the times.
    ...more info
  • Addictive
    Few music is as addictive as Gould's performances of Bach. Kind of a drug, but far healthier! When you start listening the first prelude in C major staccato-like just like nobody else played it before, you're sure you're listening to something unique.

    A copy of this recording should be in each home....more info
  • Dilettante's Bach
    This may be marvelous Gould, but it's terrible Bach. The only reason this deserves 2 stars is because of the admittedly superlative pianism. Beware, however, as these performances will reveal something of Gould but very little of Bach. Bach's genius lies buried beneath Gould's musicological artificialities. Once again, David Hurwitz is pushing his own personal agenda. Do NOT purchase these discs unless you already own several sets of the 48 and want a truly unorthodox view that belies the intent of the music. After staying away from Gould's interpretations of Bach's major keyboard works for some years, I recently decided to revisit them. Unfortunately, my impression of Gould's interpretations hasn't improved over the years. As mentioned, there is some incredible pianism on these CDs, and Gould's insights are occasionally striking. Nonetheless, the eccentricities and musical anomalies are too numerous and prohibitively distracting. What's more, the plaintive vocalizing is annoying, to say the least. This may be a must for Gould fans, but not for the rest of us. If you want something truly legendary in this repertoire, buy Edwin Fischer's classic recordings from the 30s. Or, if you want digital sound, Angela Hewitt's performances are beyond reproach. Or, better yet, you can't go wrong with Rosalyn Tureck. Gould may have been a great musician, at least according to some, but his perversions of composers' intentions will forever besmirch his legacy. Two very big thumbs down!!!...more info
  • Best CD I Own.
    If I could give this album 10 stars, I would. To me it is the platonic ideal for music. These 24 pieces from Bach are important fundamental building blocks for all of music, and Gould interprets them in ways that allows their greatness to come through. These performances never get stale. I started my toddler kids off in listening to both WTC Book 1 and 2, and they loved them immediately. Even now, if given a choice of what CD to put on they will usually choose one of the WTC CD's. I tend to be underdramatic, but when I listen to this composer and this performer and see how my kids respond, I feel like its a gift from God. ...more info
  • Unique and Wonderful
    It's definitely different. But it's not dry like some the others said. I think it's a much more mature recording than others I have heard and also enjoyed. I think it's the way that Bach is meant to be played. ...more info
  • Is it really the complete edition?
    I think there is a typo on the listing of this CD, as there appears to be no 4th Prelude and Fugue. I believe that the following should be corrected from this:

    Prelude And Fugue No. 3 In C-Sharp Major, BWV 848: Praeludium
    Prelude And Fugue No. 3 In C-Sharp Major, BWV 848: Fuga

    To this:

    Prelude And Fugue No. 4 In C-Sharp Major, BWV 848: Praeludium
    Prelude And Fugue No. 4 In C-Sharp Major, BWV 848: Fuga

    I base this correction on the apparent pattern of there being one Praeludium and one Fuga for each Prelude And Fugue No. and according to the original listing, Prelude And Fugue No. 3 has two Praeludiums and two Fugas. Not only that, but the last two No.3s are in different keys. This leads me to believe that there is a typo and that the last two No.3s are actually the 4th Prelude And Fugues.

    Other then the small typo, the Glenns performance is better then average. However, I was not accustomed to hearing such an unorthodox way of playing Prelude And Fugue No.1 In C Major - Praeludium. For one, it doesnt sound sober and its as if the entire piece is suffering from a serious case of hiccups. If you dont believe me, play the demo. Now I may be wrong, but is this how it is ment to be played?

    Also, ive been listenning to this with my headphones one for over an hour now and I cant help but to feel like I am hearing voices from within the recording. If listened to some of the pieces carefully, you can hear a male humming out he melody as Gould plays. At times you can hear faint conversations in the background. A good example of this is on the 23 second mark of Prelude And Fugue No. 1 In C-Major - Praeludium. You will hear a man say something like Yaheeda or something of the like. I will admit, im not to familiar with Bachs works, so I wouldnt be to sure if this is ment to be part of the piece but I would imagine that such a strange anomaly would have no place in this kind of music. If you still dont believe me, you can check the sample provided on info
  • Listen to a more conventional recording first.
    I highly recommend Gould's recording of WTC books one and two with the caveat that his performances reach the peak of the unpredictable and can be rather traumatizing to the uninitiated.

    Glenn Gould's interpretation of The WTC is a manifesto of his musical opinions, saturated with absolute confidence. Gould sees Bach as a sibling to be rivaled and conveys his ideas, from the sentimental to the vulgar to the insane, with perfect clarity....more info
  • Gould's Old Testament
    I imagine it depends on how respectful of baroque conventions you are as to how you react to Gould's Well Tempered.

    For this listener, every facet of Bach's genius is presented compellingly to the well adjusted listener. There is a huge variety of tempi, dynamics, articulation and mood in this set which might not appeal to every taste. Plus some accepted conventions are challenged right from the first prelude (in staccato rather than the accepted legato).

    But Gould does not try to shock as he does in Mozart. For Bach he reserves some of his most spiritual playing of all, and rarely does it communicate so ripely.

    For me a desert Island performance of unsurpassed interest, probing and much beauty too....more info

  • I just don't get it
    Bach's WTC is (or should be) as central to a pianist's repertoire as the Beethoven sonatas; as Schumann put it, the WTC is the old testament, the sonatas the new. However, I don't see how you could tell from these recordings. What others call clean and precise I call inhuman and downright unlistenable at times. The only reasons I give this three stars instead of one are that 1) Gould had absolute control over his instrument (the piano, definitely not the voice) and 2) at times he seems almost involved. Whereas Gould was often inspired in the Goldberg variations, he seems completely bored here, which is totally at odds with the wonderful music. The myth about Gould completely altering the image of Bach from austere and pedantic to vibrantly alive is completely false; for example Landowska recorded both books twenty years before Gould did, and her interpretation is vastly more involved than Gould's. I'm not contesting that Gould was just about the most unique character in classical music for a long time, but why listen when that originality isn't coupled with depth of feeling? By all means, listen to Fischer, Landowska and Richter in this music, but not Gould....more info
  • vigorous and exquisite Bach
    Glenn Gould is a legend and no collection with interest in piano or Bach should be without his playing. I never tire of it. He plays with little or no pedal achieving the delicacy of a harpsicord with the depth of the pianoforte. Some scholars and pianists may differ in their appreciation, but I have read of none that fail to respect him....more info
  • Brilliant
    I hate to say it, but Gould can do on the piano what no harpsichordist can dream. I don't know if I could recommend this as a first recording of the WTC--the more familiar you are with the music, the better. If you've tried to play any preludes/fugues, you'll gain even more appreciation for the way Gould does things. He has a marvelous way of bringing out all of the voices. It may at times be contrary to Baroque performance practice, but it's nevertheless incredible music....more info
  • Bach and Gould
    The Glenn Gould Edition - Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II

    Bach never fails to please! And Glenn Gould gives (to me) the ultimate interpretation. Each time I play either one, I find something new to enjoy...more info
  • Gould's unique sound
    No pianist has been able to play these pieces as steadily and with as much control as Gould, nor with his reverence and clarity in fugues such as the c# and e-flat minor. In the C# major prelude in Book I Gould plays a wrong note in bar 37--a b natural for b#--but this more minor-sounding wrong line actually sounds interesting and maybe even better, and it contrasts with bar 45. I did not realize this elusive sound was a wrong note until relistening after a break of many years. It had to be either a deliberate change or a finger slip--no edition of the piece contains that note. There is also a finger slip in the C# major fugue on the 'and' of beat one in bar 17 where Gould bumps into an f#--that could not be deliberate. These are the only note errors I have found in Gould's recordings, and I don't know that any outtakes have been released of the WTC.
    Carefully listening one can also detect the splice between takes in the a minor fugue in Gould's Book I, and other splices in II. Other controversial things await the listener in this immortal record. ...more info
  • A Must-Have Recording
    At once idiosyncratic, tempestuous and strangely moving, Glenn Gould's recording of WTC I is without compare. Having bought and listened to several other recordings of this piece, I will say that while Gould's interpretation may not be the most orthodox one out there, it is by far the most appealing. The only other recording of WTC I that even comes close is Vladimir Feltsman's....more info
  • Fantastic
    Fantasic, the greatest. It's so relaxing when listening to this to know that the performance is going to be perfect....more info
  • Your Inner Voice is Calling
    Let's admit it right off the bat - these are individualistic recordings that do not sound like anything you've ever heard. That's probably why I value them so much, that and their brilliant artistic temperament. Bach can sound boring, particularly by those who insist on a rigid (rather than flowing) tempo and an emotionless rendition that approaches machine-like quality. This is NOT the WTC you are used to but it is a work of art unto itself.

    Whether it is a Brahms Intermezzo, a work by Scriabin or these creations, there is no one who can bring out that inner melody with such clarity and perfection. It's almost as if his fingers operated totally independent of each other in a way we have yet to discover. At times, he manages to find inner voices that cannot be seen even when looking at the music. Then there is his technique of focusing a work - from the entire piece to a movement to a section, phrase, chord and finally a single note. You know that every single note sounds as it does for a reason known only to Gould. As usual, I have trouble choosing a "favorite" although I admit that I prefer the minor over major because of their alleged "richness".

    Questions of authenticity or "how they were meant to be heard" are irrelevant. Chopin wrote for a small pianoforte, not the Grand we hear today. Who wants a tiny "original" chorus of Handel's Messiah or Julius Reubke's Organ Sonata heard on a pre-French Romantic organ? By all means, this is a recording for the ages - buy and enjoy....more info


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