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Thread: Gould's Beethoven

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    Junior Member Shane's Avatar
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    Default Gould's Beethoven

    I am wondering, what do others here think of Glenn Gould's Beethoven? In particular, the Piano Sonatas?
    I absolutely adore the Beethoven Piano Sonatas and have a variety of recordings of them (highlights including Goode and Richter). A while back I purchased the 2 multi-disc sets that were released in the CBS Masterworks series that collect Gould's Beethoven Sonatas.
    At first glance, it looks like it will be an amazing set, as it includes a majority of the Sonatas. I am a Gould fan and, like many others, I consider his Bach to be perfection. But, upon listening to his Beethoven Sonatas, I immediately became infuriated before even finishing the first movement of the first Sonata. Gould excercises his eccentric quirkiness all over this music, and I had to stop listening to it. I bounced around a bit, sampling other sonatas, only to find him rushing crucial moments and was left with an overall feeling of blasphemy and violation in respect to these highly regarded works.
    So, I am just wondering what other's who have heard Gould's Beethoven think of his interpretations?

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    The only Gould I have ever listened to was just now on the Amazon website sampling Beethoven Piano Sonata No 1. I wasn't impressed. It sounded poor compared with my Stephen Kovacevich version, but it may have something to do with the low bit rate they use on Amazon.

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    Senior Member Hexameron's Avatar
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    The only Beethoven I've heard from Gould is the Hammerklavier, the Op. 109, and No. 17 'Tempest'. I've also heard his Bach and Chopin and some others that I can't remember. After hearing his Beethoven, though, I've come to the conclusion that his playing style is just not compatible with Beethoven's music. It seems like Gould doesn't wish to play them as Beethoven would, but only as he would. His interpretations are not superior in any way to most of the other pianists I've heard. And that's where some of the Gould fanatics are mistaken. Sometimes they treat him like some great pianistic Messiah who illuminated the intricacies and spirituality of Bach and even Beethoven. I disagree there. Brendel, Perahia, Arrau, and even Schnabel are just as competent and powerful in their execution of Beethoven and/or Bach.

    Gould's technique is indeed mindboggling and his enthusiasm for the music is astounding; if you ever watch him play you can tell he's completely possessed and mesmerized by the music. But whenever I listen to his Beethoven sonatas, I get the impression that Gould is incapable of tapping into the great composer's psyche or feelings. Additionally, his Beethoven is undermined with a reckless use of staccato and lightness of touch, when, if one reads about how Beethoven played his own sonatas, you get the feeling that the opposite should be applied. It's not Chopin legato, but nor is it harpsichordian plunking as Gould's fleet fingers seem more comfortable with. I agree with Topaz about Kovacevich. I think he's a great interpreter of Beethoven; he executes both Beethoven's anger and nobility of thought while Gould instead prefers intellectualism. It's also my opinion that Gould plays with the same mannerisms, dynamics and tempo for every composer. That is, Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and Webern are played with little or no diversity, a major faux pas in my view. Bach and Chopin are not the same... but Gould treats them as such.

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    Senior Member oisfetz's Avatar
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    IMHO, Gould was a psycho,and he played like it. Poor 0gdon end mad, but never played as a mad man. Gould did.

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    Junior Member Shane's Avatar
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    OK, I feel more "normal" knowing I'm not the only one that feels that way about Gould.

    As I said, I think his Bach playing is magnificent, and I hold him in very high regard for that. But I also think he was a "one-trick pony" and should have stayed away from other composers.

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    Try Solomon for Beethoven PSons 29/32. Excellent.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Topaz View Post
    The only Gould I have ever listened to was just now on the Amazon website sampling Beethoven Piano Sonata No 1. I wasn't impressed.
    Really? Go and get more before we send you to the detention room.

    His Bach is excellent. He wasn't about technique only, but he knew what to do with it. And his labour in Bach's voicing is magnificent, you can clearly distinguish each melody.



    So, I am just wondering what other's who have heard Gould's Beethoven think of his interpretations?
    His introduction to the Emperor (with Ancerl) sounds a bit like a caricature. And I partially agree his clean interpretations may have not matched Beethoven's sound.

    His Goldberg, WTK and English suites are a must.
    Also, try to get a copy of him playing Liszt's transcription of Beethoven symphonies.

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    Junior Member Shane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Manuel View Post
    Also, try to get a copy of him playing Liszt's transcription of Beethoven symphonies.
    I do have his recording of Liszt's transcriptions of the 5th and part of the 6th. That is actually not too bad. Although I think some of my enjoyment comes from the novelty of hearing these classic works performed solely on piano.

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    Senior Member Hexameron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Manuel View Post
    Also, try to get a copy of him playing Liszt's transcription of Beethoven symphonies.
    Out of all the Beethoven-Liszt out there, I wouldn't recommend this; I'll take Leslie Howard's expensive set long before Gould's. If you're going to experience these transcriptions, then Katsaris and Scherbakov are the masters to go for. Their musicality and interpretation is vastly superior to Gould's. Gould's playing is slow, mechanical, and devoid of passion, not to mention annoying because of his incessant humming. I would point out the horribly weak last movement of Beethoven's 5th. Are you telling me Gould captures Beethoven's triumphant spirit in this robotic and boring excursion? Compare with Scherbakov's ecstatic rendition and I think that Gould disc will be in the trash bin by the end of the week.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hexameron View Post
    Out of all the Beethoven-Liszt out there, I wouldn't recommend this; I'll take Leslie Howard's expensive set long before Gould's. If you're going to experience these transcriptions, then Katsaris and Scherbakov are the masters to go for. Their musicality and interpretation is vastly superior to Gould's. Gould's playing is slow, mechanical, and devoid of passion, not to mention annoying because of his incessant humming. I would point out the horribly weak last movement of Beethoven's 5th. Are you telling me Gould captures Beethoven's triumphant spirit in this robotic and boring excursion? Compare with Scherbakov's ecstatic rendition and I think that Gould disc will be in the trash bin by the end of the week.
    I'll take Katsaris to the desert island. But Gould is not surpassed by anyone in the way he manages the polyphony in those works. So with him, you hear each instrument in detail. Rembember in this transcriptions Liszt almost condensed the orchestrain the piano.

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    I agree completely about Gould and Beethoven...he butchered most of the sonatas. I do truly enjoy his performance of :Rondo. Allegro 'PATHETIQUE'...Oddly enough he made his soloist debut peroforming Beethoven's fourth piano concerto at age 14.

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    Senior Member Sebastien Melmoth's Avatar
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    GG's disc of the complete Op. 31 Sonatas is an incredibly satisfying recital:
    http://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Pian...2265166&sr=1-6

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    I don't get it, I absolutely love Gould's Beethoven. Maybe the only ones I didn't enjoy as much as the others were his Appassionata and Op.10 no.5, but the rest is lovely. Moonlight, Pathetique, Tempest, Hammerklavier, No.30 Op.109, are just some examples of sonatas which my favourite version is Gould's.

    Edit: I forgot to mention the piano concertos, which my favourite recordings are Gould's too.
    Last edited by Yoshi; Dec-13-2010 at 20:29.

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    His first movement of Moonlight sonata sounds like " I'm so embrassed to play this dead horse, I must finish as soon as I can "

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    He actually loved the Moonlight Sonata. He called it a masterpiece. But everyone knows the first movement is always played too slowly: it's just that he was the only pianist with the gall to play it at a reasonable speed. (Don't overlook, either, that Gould grew up listening to recordings of Schnabel, who also happens play the first movement quite fast.)

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