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Glenn Gould’s recording debut in 1955 of Bach’s Goldberg Variations took the world by storm. His decidedly un-Romantic view, absolute technical skill, startling lucidity, and right-on rhythmic changes, combined with his eccentricities–audible humming, sometimes outrageously fast tempi–made him an instantly legendary pianist and elucidated Bach’s music in a whole new way. Gould’s final recording, 26 years later, was also of the Goldbergs. It’s a more relaxed, sometimes much slower, more inward reading (although still very much his own, complete with oddly ferocious attacks and accents), in which he offers repeats of the first half of 15 of the Variations. Both performances are glorious, each in its own way, and this luxurious new set of three CDs is entertaining, a joy to hear, and revelatory; it belongs in any music lover’s collection. The third CD is devoted to outtakes and chatter from recording sessions. At one point, Gould improvises “God Save the King” and exhibits how it turns into “The Star-Spangled Banner.” And a long interview with critic Tim Page offers great insight into Gould’s weird humor and unique outlook. A must-have collection. –Robert Levine

Glenn Gould: A State of Wonder – The Complete Goldberg Variations 1955 & 1981

Released: 2020

    Disc 1