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Complete 1981 Studio Sessions / Glenn Gould

Complete 1981 Studio Sessions / Glenn Gould

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There’s no doubt that serious musicians and recording producers will find the Complete 1981 Studio Sessions illuminating and revelatory. It’s a priceless document of an iconic pianist revisiting his signature work in his favored working environment, at the height of his powers.

Forty years ago, on September 2, 1982 - the year of Michael Jackson's Thriller and Steven Spielberg's E.T. - Glenn Gould's legendary second recording of the Goldberg Variations closed a circle that his revolutionary 1956 recording of Bach's masterpiece had opened. While his first recording is the exuberant, fast-paced work of a 22-year-old pianistic prodigy, his second is the measured, richly detailed interpretation of an experienced studio artist. Just five weeks later, the Canadian pianist died unexpectedly, leaving the world a masterpiece of recording art that - awarded two GRAMMY awards - is still one of the most listened-to classical albums worldwide.

In Gould's 90th anniversary year, 40 years since the second album's first release, comes the Sony Classical release of Glenn Gould: The Goldberg Variations - The Complete Unreleased 1981 Recording Sessions, a uniquely detailed window into the creation of this classic recording. Across 11 CDs, the set includes the double Grammy-winning final release as well as everything committed to tape during the 1981 sessions, restored from the original ¼-inch analogue tapes and mastered using 24 bit / 96 kHz technology. As well as the takes themselves, the session recordings include Gould and the producers' conversations, all of which are transcribed in a hard-cover coffee-table book which also contains an annotated score.

REVIEW:

To mark the 40th anniversary of Gould’s death and what would have been his 90th birthday on September 25, 2022, Sony devotes an 11-CD boxed set to the complete sessions of the 1981 Goldberg Variations remake, along with the final edited product we’ve known and loved for decades.

All that survives on the studio tapes is here: every session take, false start, insert, bit of banter, and so forth. We get to observe Gould’s working methods close at hand, in extensive detail.

While Gould usually used the studio as a laboratory to experiment with myriad interpretive approaches to a single work, here he clearly knew what he wanted from the start. Consequently the various takes, retakes, and inserts are less about creating performances than refining Gould’s conception of each variation. As several of Gould’s producers attested in print, for all of the pianist’s love of technology, he needed less splicing than most.

A lavish 216-page multi-lingual book included with this set proves no less comprehensive. It contains full session documentation, numerous photos of session logs, tape boxes, and Gould’s heavily marked up and quite illegible editing scores. In addition to Einhorn’s aforementioned recollections, an essay by Martin Kistner and executive producer Robert Russ discusses the 1981 sessions’ technical aspects in thorough detail. And all of the sessions’ spoken moments are transcribed in printed form.

Naturally Gould would have abhorred this release, given his determination to control every aspect of his public persona, from fine tuning every edit to laboriously scripting his “spontaneous” radio and print interviews. Yet there’s no “dirty linen” to air, so to speak. Gould is consistently focused and professional, fully prepared, and unfailingly considerate of his colleagues. I’m also impressed by the degree to which Gould can accurately analyze his own playing in the moment. There’s no doubt that serious musicians and recording producers will find the Complete 1981 Studio Sessions illuminating and revelatory. It’s a priceless document of an iconic pianist revisiting his signature work in his favored working environment, at the height of his powers.

-- ClassicsToday.com (Jed Distler)

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 11
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Sony Masterworks
    • UPC/Barcode: 194399774229
    • Item Number: 19439977422