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.