The enigma Glenn Gould


We are facing a fascinating character, therefore its interpretative genius, as for his flamboyant and attractive personality. Despite its uniqueness, and being diagnosed, Posthumously, with Asperger's Syndrome, his musical genius is above any personal aspects.

Glenn Gould, the eccentricity of a genius

Interpreting the Goldberg Variations, namely initial aria, It is as deep as disturbing. That same version that Professor Hannibal Lecter listened to in "The Silence of the Lambs". And it is that a work like this not only increases the refinement of a cannibal. It also does it with much simpler personalities, in the culinary, like ours.

His repertoire was extensive but Bach was his reference composer. It can be said that Gould was transformed with the work of the German master. The pure metrics provided by Bach's scores were the object of his study, almost obsession. An accurate explanation of this fascination is offered by Agustí Francelli:

“Glenn Gould was a unique artist for many reasons. Among them, for the attachment he professed for a specific musical form: the theme with variations. It is significant that its close to 60 records are framed between the two famous versions of the Goldberg Variations, approached at a distance from 26 years. The Canadian artist never returned to a piece, once recorded. For him, the album was a finished work. Precisely, The creative advantages that the studio offers over the concert hall is the possibility of “cut and paste”, to edit the version, to modify it as many times as necessary until the most satisfactory result is found. Gould was widely criticized for his early retirement from the scene and his exclusive dedication to the recording industry.: it's more, This was understood as an advertising strategy and the artistic significance of his decision was not noticed at all., no matter how much the pianist argued over and over again in his writings. Simply, The work collected in the studio seemed more serious and rigorous to him than the acrobatic exhibition on the scene. Success did not interest him, he was interested in the legacy he could leave to subsequent generations. Much of his audience did not forgive him.

But, Why this predilection for the theme with variations and why in the case of the Goldbergs did he make the exception? Good, the theme with variations is the primal form of music, the simplest, the one that refers more directly to its intrinsic structure based on repetition, the mechanism that makes it understandable and recognizable to the human ear. If the sonata form, that prevails in classicism, it's narrative and seems borrowed from literature (finally it is the translation to the established role of the sequence approach-node-denouement, turned into exhibition-development-re-exhibition), the theme with variations refers to the musical structure itself, since it is about altering now one or another of the components of a given sequence: tonality, The mode, time, harmonization, the ringer, the melody, etc. Of course, sometimes the recognition of the subject is practically impossible, but it's always there. It's finally minimalism: successive modifications of a topic that is dissected in all its resources.

This process fascinated Gould. And if he tackled the Goldbergs, one of the absolute peaks of the genre, when I was just over 20 years and then already close to fifty, It was because he undoubtedly considered that the age factor was another possible variation of the work. In a way, was to introduce the time (relativity) in the work: not the execution, but the perspective that the years give. And in the latest version a significant investment of the entire process was allowed: recorded the opening song after having gone through the 30 variations. The theme therefore not as a generator, but as a black hole that contains all possible variations, all the energy released. A fascinating lesson ”.o
One of the first interpreters to use new technologies, he soon left the live concerts. His obsession with perfection led him to choose studio recordings where everything was controlled. Even so, almost never had to repeat a recording again. Such was the perfection of his interpretations.