Music For The Day

Two very different approaches to the same piece of music today – Keyboard Concerto no. 7 in G Minor, BWV 1058, by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Firstly in a recording with Harpsichord solo, performed by Trevor Pinnock with the English Concert Orchestra (second movement only):


And secondly, as interpreted by Glenn Gould on the piano in a performance with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Vladimir Golschmann (full performance):


My preference lies with the latter recording, perhaps unsurprisingly given the fact that I am on record as considering Gould to be my favourite pianist and best interpreter of Bach. I am not one to stubbornly insist that the modern piano is an inappropriate instrument for the performance of Bach, believing (as did Gould himself) that the composer was always looking to test and push the boundaries of what was possible, and would have embraced the modern concert grand piano had it been available in his time.

And while I enjoy the fruits of the period instrument movement to a point, I firmly believe that the evolution in the modern symphony orchestra, as with individual instruments, is not something that need be shied away from or apologised for. The shortcomings of “historically informed performance” are set out very well in this essay from the Arts Journal.

However, setting my preference aside, there is a wonderful musicality to the harpsichord performance, and pleasure to be had in listening to both with an open and receptive ear.


Music For The Day

Piano Quartet, Op. 47, by Robert Schumann:


Performed by the Juilliard Quartet with Glenn Gould at the piano. The contrast between the brooding, somewhat affected opening and the following allegro ma non troppo is wonderfully done.

Filling In The Blanks On Bach

Andrew Sullivan touches on one of my favourite topics – the music of JS Bach and his unparalleled interpreter, Glenn Gould.

The Dish

George Stauffer appreciates that John Eliot Gardiner’s recent book on the great composer has insights into his personal character:

Moving beyond the hagiographies of the past, he presents a fallible Bach, a musical genius who on the one hand is deeply committed to illuminating and expanding Luther’s teachings through his sacred vocal works (and therefore comes close to Spitta’s Fifth Evangelist), but on the other hand is a rebellious and resentful musician, harboring a lifelong grudge against authority—a personality disorder stemming from a youth spent among ruffians and abusive teachers. Hiding behind Bach, creator of the Matthew Passion and B-Minor Mass, Gardiner suggests, is Bach “the reformed teenage thug.” In the preface we read: “Emphatically, Bach the man was not a bore.” Neither is Gardiner.

(Video: Glenn Gould plays Bach’s Keyboard Concerto No.1 with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in 1960)

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Music For The Day

Book II of the Well-Tempered Klavier by J.S. Bach, recorded by the incomparable Glenn Gould. I was looking for a specific fugue to share, but decided to serve up the whole lot direct from YouTube. It is well worth 1 hour and 44 minutes of your time.



A little piece of perfection for this Thursday in late March.