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Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 (The 1955 & 1981 Recordings)

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iTunes Review

Thanks to a potent mix of rhythmic precision and blinding-fast tempi—just listen to the liftoff of Variation 5—Glenn Gould burst onto the record industry's radar with his 1955 performance of this Bach masterwork. Appropriately, the pianist also closed his studio career with a more ruminative (yet still exciting) version, in 1981. Gould’s distinct intelligence, palpable in both takes, has inspired generations of Bach interpreters. And though you’ll likely have a preference among them (as well as your own opinions about Gould’s murmurings from the piano bench), you simply can’t have one performance and not the other.

Customer Reviews

One of the few TRUE Essentials of "iTunes Essentials."

Glenn Gould's recordings are well known and legendary. And yet, both his 1955 and his 1981 recordings exemplify very different styles. The '55 blazes by in the blink of an eye and the '81 gives more time and thoughtfulness: almost as if Gould, following the '55, shook his head and thought "Let's listen to that a little closer." As a result of buying this combination, you get a COMPREHENSIVE view of the Variations, versus a small snapshot you'd receive from a single of the CD's.

Personally, my favorite is actually Jeremy Denk's latest recording, which mixes whimsy and technique together. At the same time however, this recording is an ESSENTIAL grab for one's collection in the same way that Kleiber's 5th/7th and Karajan's 9th are.

Very good performance but…

Admittedly I don't have the best ears, but even with the latest iTunes mastering I can hear his moaning and vocalizations. It's not just a few seconds a song it's 20% to over 50% in the 1981 recording. Check it for yourself in the samples. If you can't hear it then this a great deal for you.
Sadly that's a deal breaker for me.

Love it, he is good

I purchased the variations as a result of listening to Robert Greenberg lecture “Bach and the High Baroque” and I do not regret it.


Born: September 25, 1932 in Canada

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

The most renowned Canadian classical performer of the 20th century, pianist Glenn Gould remains one of the most fascinating and celebrated figures in all of music, the archetypal riddle wrapped inside an enigma wrapped inside a conundrum. A former child prodigy, his piano artistry was unparalleled, yet he often received less recognition as a virtuoso than as a troubled eccentric; a disconnected recluse notorious for such odd habits as wearing a wool topcoat in the dog days of summer, Gould was a...
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Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 (The 1955 & 1981 Recordings), Glenn Gould
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