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CLASSICAL  March 2000

CLASSICAL March 2000

Subject:

Re: Bach Day

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 31 Mar 2000 09:41:58 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (60 lines)

John Polifronio:

>Your description of the clerk's reaction (to your having returned a Gould
>record) suggests that you must have received some "guidance" with your
>musical tastes from him.

Perhaps he merely began to listen to the music, based on a helpful hint.

>Gould, during the period of his greatest popularity, was oohed and aahed
>by many Bach-loving musicaphiles.  I've recently made some perceived-as
>harsh remarks about this notorious pianist on this chatlist.

Well, you're certainly entitled to your opinion.  But so far, it seems to
have been based mainly on Gould's humming, rather than on the music he
made.

>To be precise, I've come over the years to quietly resent the cult of
>personality and adoration that seems inevitably to surround a handfull of
>artists in each generation.  Once an artist becomes a "name," something
>often happens to these artists and their avid followers.  It's hard to
>talk about what these changes are, not only because these effects can be
>subtle (though often very important aesthetically), but because the music
>world has become so sensitive concerning what is said about these "big
>names,"

I agree with this.  I also find it harmful to worship composers.  On
the other hand, I can't off-hand think of a massive cult, lasting for
generations, around a classical-music figure who delivered shoddy goods.

>A customer of mine told me recently that "There's absolutely no doubt
>that Gould (is) the best interpreter of Bach's music."

So the customer's an idiot.  For one thing, how does he measure "best?" But
he's certainly entitled to say that he likes Gould best, to the exclusion
of others.

>The problem with utterances like the above is not just that they're
>certainly and plainly nonsense, but that they have an intimidating
>effect on the hearer.  You realize that you can't reasonably discuss
>your disagreement with their assessment of an artist's attributes.

Sure you can.  You can ask why or what makes him think so.  If he can't
tell you, you put it down to individual taste.

>Until I heard others play Bach at the piano, I was content to enjoy, and I
>certainly profoundly did enjoy, Gould's aggressive, machine like accuracy
>and stylistic detachment.  I now, and for many years, hear subtleties,
>nuances, insights in the Bach playing from other pianists, that I often
>don't find when I revisit Gould's Bach.

I like lots of Bach besides Gould, but I don't think Gould yesterday's
noodles either.  For one thing, he brings out the counterpoint.
Machine-like? Not to me.  Agressive? Seems closer.  I would call it a
furious energy in the fast pieces, brooding in the slow ones.  I also
believe that he did some works better than others, and certain recordings
of those works came off better than others.  I love his 1955 Goldbergs and
his Partitas.  I don't particularly care for his WTC.  On the other hand,
I don't consider him a fraud.

Steve Schwartz

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