[f_minor] Gould and Rachmaninoff

Houpt, Fred fred.houpt at rbc.com
Fri Jul 16 12:39:20 EDT 2010

Good points and many people said the same about V. Horowitz's
interpretations of music....he crafted it to showcase his awesome
technique regardless of the possible distortions of the printed music.
GG, I think, was the extreme case and his hilarious Brahms Piano
Concerto is the most extreme of all (completed) examples.  Mind you, I
still say that the very rarely heard rehearsal he did, and which CBC
radio put on some years back, of him conducting one of Beethoven's early
Piano Concerto's at such a slow speed that it was easily half
speed....was at once spell-binding, mesmerizing, as if listening to the
musical ideas in slow motion so that the mind could taste them in more
detail and then, on the other the hand, a breach of any rational
interpretive decency or sense.  Frankly, I was so dazzled by what he was
doing that I just laughed out loud and had goosebumps all over me.  It
was sort of like putting Beethoven through a computer and asking it to
recalibrate as if drunk.  I hope you all get a chance one day to hear
this experiment that GG did.  

I am not sure that GG got music wrong. I would defend him only on the
basis that he was searching for meanings that musical ideas could
transmit.  I mean, what exactly are musical ideas? They are in essence
only mixtures of vibrating air that our ears pick up and our mind makes
sense of.

Musical tastes being what they are, we are either open to the sounds or
not, as when Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" caused a minor riot.  Now our
tastes appreciate that primal music of his and we are thrilled; then it
was offensive.  So, what was GG looking for in examining the musical
arguments created by a composer?  He was looking for insights that no
one had yet discovered and he was also making an esthetic statement,
always a personal statement.  

It goes back to the old discussion, is there a proper way to play music
of an era or should it always be elastic, depending on when we are
playing it?  Would J.S. Bach approve of the Concert Grand piano as the
instrument for his keyboard works or would he say, no, notwithstanding
it's enormous range and power, I still prefer the sounds of a
harpsichord?  Who is to say that his choice would be the best choice?  

Kind regards,

Fred Houpt 

-----Original Message-----
From: f_minor-bounces at glenngould.org
[mailto:f_minor-bounces at glenngould.org] On Behalf Of Brad Lehman
Sent: Friday, July 16, 2010 12:01 PM
To: Discussion of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould.
Subject: Re: [f_minor] Gould and Rachmaninoff

Couperin played by Glenn Gould?  Who had no inclinations to play in 18th
century French style (and not much comfort with Italian style, either)? 
  That would be interesting to hear, once......  :)

Gould's tendency toward _sui generis_ interpretations was both his
strength and his weakness.  He did imaginative things that disregarded
convention, style, historical knowledge, and the surviving documents
from 18th century pedagogy.  He basically re-composed the music to suit
himself, to fit his own ideas, changing whatever instructions he didn't
care to follow.

Well...it's possible to produce imaginative and immaculately-prepared
interpretations that *do* go through all the homework first, and that
respect what we know of the composer's own approach, as a base line.  To
embrace Gould's work, one has to set that aside and pretend that it
doesn't matter; just let him do whatever he wanted, and treat his
irresponsibility as some kind of virtue.  As a listener, I used to allow
Gould more leeway in that regard than I do now.  When I listen to him
now, it just seems to me that he didn't care to get it right, and that
bothers me.

Brad Lehman

On 7/16/2010 3:09 AM, Jean-Christophe Ponsero wrote:
> I would have loved to hear his interpretation of the great Brahms 
> variations (Haendel and Paganini) even though I think he said he 
> disliked them. The great fugue at the end of the Haendel could be 
> truly great. I could do with some Couperin by him or the Dukas sonata
> Or even Boulez' 2nd sonata. Just dreaming!


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