Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Guest Blogger - Jean-Marie MELE

This is the next post in The Contrapuntal Blog Guest Blogger Series. The purpose is to showcase some of the worlds most passionate and creative Gould fans' creations through photo, video and writing.

Jean-Marie MELE (jme@acklabs.net) is a thirty-something consultant in Information Technology Security living a quiet life in France. He was introduced very early to music and although he did not took the path of becoming a musician; it still accompanies him in his everyday life. Also he is not very good at writing biographies.

Badineries on music, Bach and Glenn Gould,
Amongst all the compositors, Bach is my favorite. As a child and as far as I can remember I always had classical music records for my birthdays. One I remember especially had a hard purple and green sleeve, almost a box. It was a record of Bach’s Toccata and Fugues. At that time I did not understand how someone could compose such thing and it fascinated me.

As I first discovered Bach through his theurgical music, it is only later in life I discovered his "piano" works and of course, the Goldberg Variations; with them Glenn Gould entered into my world — and he has been a permanent guess since then.

I remember the first time I heard his 1955 recording: The music was clear and each particular note could be heard although the partition was played at an impressive pace that was out of this world. Glenn Gould’s style — which Tatiana Zelikman in the "Russian journey" documentary qualified as “an inhuman evenness" — is without discussion unique by its “symmetric” precision and beauty.

The 1955 version is by far my favorite although I do prefer his later interpretation (1981) when I do need to concentrate on a particular task or be at peace. I like to consider the 1955 record as being the closest to how the old master intended them to be played. Johann Nikolaus Forkel, Bach’s first biographer said that the Count Keyserlingk asked Bach to write “pieces for his Goldberg, which should be of such a soothing and somewhat lively character that he might be a little cheered up by them in his sleepless nights” and I humbly think that's exactly how Glenn Gould interpreted them.

His style didn’t get him only admirers though. John Beckwith, a critic once said that Gould’s style remembered him of “a trained seal who beeps out God Save the Queen on a set of car horns”. His interpretations of Mozart’s Sonatas are very interesting as it is almost a rewrite of the partitions. The best example can be found, in my humble opinion, in his interpretation of Mozart’s Sonata for piano K331. Of course there is his famous interpretation of Brahms that feels "very baroque" although Leonard Bernstein would disagree with me if I were to find it "enjoyable".

And there is the humming. I was told that Glenn Gould tried to fight his urge of humming while playing but couldn’t help it. Although the engineers did their best to suppress it, I’m grateful they didn’t succeed. It does remarkably accompany some of his “cantabile” interpretations. More important than anything else, it does make me feel sometime, as I close my eyes and let the music flow, as if Glenn Gould is playing in front of me; and then the time stops.

1 comment:

  1. A very inspring post, which makes me look further into this facinating world.