Monday, February 18, 2008

Goldberg stalks librarian

First, an unfamiliar pianist named Simone Dinnerstein appeared on the Billboard charts with a new recording of J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations. Then, a friend forced me out through snow and ice and gloom of night, to attend a Krannert Center performance of these variations by Christopher Taylor. THEN, back at the library, a sorrowful patron presented himself and confessed that he had broken our CD of Glenn Gould's famous 1955 recording of those very same variations.

This last was distressing, as that recording remains the gold standard by which all others are judged. Happily we have a second recording with both the 1955 version and a later version recorded by Gould shortly before his death in 1982. While checking on that, I was reminded of the movie Thirty two Short Films about Glenn Gould which is structured after the Goldberg Variations, which have 30 variations bracketed by the "aria" theme. Watching it again, I was struck by how modern and even prophetic many of Gould's ideas were, especially on the relationship between artist and audience and the changes created in that relationship by technology. Mostly though, it's just an engaging film of the life of a genuinely eccentric man for whom all sound was music.

At the same time, I discovered that we have a new book: Glenn Gould: A Life in Pictures. This book has many humanizing (read: goofy) photos from Gould's childhood and covers all the iconic artifacts such as his chair and his Steinway CD 318, but the very best photos are of ... you guessed it! ... the 22-year-old Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg Variations. Those of his hands and his complete absorption in the music are truly breath-taking.

Gould-fest? Bach-fest? Whatever-fest? It's at your library!

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