GLENN GOULD: THE COMPLETE BACH EDITION (38 CDs + 4 DVDs)
In honor of what would have been Glenn Gould's 80th birthday, Sony Music presents this landmark project, a beautiful box containing Glenn Gould’s recordings of Bach’s complete keyboard music, with additional DVD material that includes live performances, interviews, and documentaries.
This handsome limited-edition deluxe boxed set, which comes in a cloth-wrapped solid case with silver foil embossing, contains:
- 38 CDs in mini-LP jackets replicating original album artwork;
- 3 DVDs of excerpts from the CBC series Glenn Gould On Television, including 40 minutes of previously unreleased conversation, with Gould discussing his continuing discovery of Bach, the meaning to him of fugue and counterpoint, and changing attitudes towards music and its performers;
- 3 DVDs of Glenn Gould Plays Bach; and
- an extensive full-color book including complete original liner notes, partly written by Gould himself, plus a new introduction by Gould expert Michael Stegemann.
Although Glenn Gould embraced a wider repertoire than most music lovers realize, his reputation primarily rests with Bach, and in particular, the 1955 and 1981 Goldberg Variations recordings that essentially demarcate his international recording career. To honor what would have been Gould’s 80th birthday in 2012, along with the 30th anniversary of his untimely death in 1982 at age 50, Sony/BMG releases its most comprehensive Gould/Bach collection to date. Its 38 CDs and six DVDs include just about every studio or live Bach recording by Gould previously issued under the Sony Classical banner.
The first 30 CDs comprise Gould’s complete Bach studio recordings, packaged in facsimiles of the original LP jackets or CD jewel cases where applicable. Discs 31 through 38 are given over to posthumously published live material from Salzburg (The Goldberg Variations) and Moscow (the Sinfonias), CBC radio and television material, a rare release with Gould talking about Bach in German, and two interview discs: Glenn Gould Concert Dropout and the 1982 Goldberg Variations discussion with Tim Page.
Three DVDs contain all existing CBC television footage featuring Gould either playing or discussing Bach, including “The Well-Tempered Listener”—a 40-minute interview with Curtis Davis that appears on home video for the first time (it was not part of 2010’s otherwise complete Gould CBC television broadcasts package). The remaining three DVDs encompass director Bruno Monsaingeon’s three-part “Glenn Gould Plays Bach” series that Sony/BMG released as a boxed set in the summer of 2012. While this collection is complete insofar as Gould’s Columbia Masterworks Bach studio sessions are concerned, the A&R agenda governing which posthumously published live material and CBC broadcasts to include seems rather arbitrary.
For example, certain soundtracks from CBC videos are replicated on audio CDs, but others are not. Why the 1957 Moscow Sinfonias, but not the 1957 live Leningrad D minor keyboard concerto? Why the 1954 CBC Goldbergs broadcast, but not the 1954 Fifth Partita that Gould actually preferred over his 1957 Columbia version? And here’s something strange: A few years ago I wrote an April Fool’s Day review covering a fake “Glenn Gould Goldberg Variations Original Jacket Collection” containing every published transfer of these recordings, including a few invented releases on my part. I joked about previously unnoticed alternate takes incorporated into the 1968 rechanneled stereo incarnation of the 1955 Goldbergs. Amazingly, the Bach Collection presents the rechanneled Goldbergs, and mentions the use of alternate takes! My lie turned out to be true!
However, had Sony/BMG been truly consistent, we’d also have the alternate analogue master of the 1981 Goldbergs, previously released only as part of the three-CD set “A State of Wonder”. In addition to the music, there is a hardcover book containing many previously unpublished photos, the original liner notes for each volume, plus dates and locations for the recordings. In sum, if it’s only Bach from Gould that you want, and if you want it all (well, most of it, anyway), you won’t go wrong with Sony/BMG’s handsome packaging and modest price tag.
-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com