Ok, bad pun aside, Glenn Gould is my favorite pianist, bar none. Why? you ask, so smugly behind your tight lipped grin underneath your pencil thin moustache and long black cigarette holder with a half used Lucky Strike sticking out of it. I'll tell you. 1. His incredible rhythm. No matter how fast or slow he plays, he is like a metronome. Even with buttloads of rubato, he always gets the tempo back. 2. His sound. He has such wonderful precision and is so allergic to wrong notes (as one of his recording engineers put it), and his tone is fabulous. Such a firm, clear attack and evenness of sound (only partly to do with his pianos, which always had stiff action, he would have sound that way on any piece of garbage piano he put his hands to). His staccato made it easy to hear even the densest of contrapuntal textures. 3. His concentration. He could focus on as many melody lines as he wanted (a shame he never recorded the 6 part Ricercare from A Musical Offering). 4. His output is mostly Bach. 5. He was a perfectionist. I don't like hearing mistakes, especially when they are recorded and I have to hear them every time I play a record. Never happens with Gould (except for his live recordings from the fifties and early sixties, but those were just because he had no control over the recording process and hated performing before audiences). 6. He admitted when he didn't like a certain composer or piece of music, and sometimes refused to record them. He disliked Mozart (I don't like his music either, but Gould didn't like him) and refused to record the Fugue from the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue. So, with all that said, do yourself a favor and get the following records:
A State of Wonder- both 1955 and 1981 recordings of The Goldberg Variations in one package, including the superior analog version of the 1981 recording.
A Consorte of Renaissance Music- recordings of Byrd, Gibbons, and Sweelinck
Bach Keyboard Concertos
Well Tempered Clavier books 1 and 2
The Gould Variations- a best of that's halfway decent, the best part is it has video of him playing pieces from The Art of the Fugue.
The Two and Three Part Inventions
The Silver Jubilee album- has some of his mock interviews poking fun at music critics, as well as some fine piano playing.
So, there you have it! A good beginning to Gould! Next time, Wanda Landowska! Maybe!