PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Glenn Gould: ...And Serenity

Alison Wong

Glenn Gould

...And Serenity

Label: Sony Classical
US Release Date: 2003-09-30
UK Release Date: 2003-09-15
Amazon
iTunes

Sony's latest attempt to capitalize on the increasing after-life popularity of Glenn Gould has resulted in a hash of disparate pieces. This should come as no surprise, given that the foundation of the compilation rests upon nothing more than a murmuring once made by the artist, "the purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but is, rather, the grateful, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity." That the binding force of the chosen pieces is their projection of the state of "serenity" is laughable. It baffles the mind how anyone could think that throwing together arbitrary pieces that are slow and somewhat melancholic in nature could be packaged and sold as a product with no consideration to the unity of the musical material. Granted, while each piece is autonomously serene by nature, any cohesion between them is ruined by the huge leaps that exist in musical style. Jumping from the Baroque period to the Romantic and touching on the Modern, the compilation manages to by-pass the Classical period altogether.

The compilation opens beautifully with Bach's "Concerto in D Minor after Alessandro Marcello, BWV 974, II. Adagio". Admittedly, although begrudging in this admittance, this is a piece that exudes serenity. Soft bass arpeggios evoke the gentle strumming of a guitar that is overlaid by a wistful-sounding melody punctuated by delicate trills. For those familiar with Gould, this piece is a classic example of the pianist that he was and an instant reminder to dig out and re-listen to his recording of "Goldberg Variations", the 1955 recording that launched his musical career. With no room to breathe, the compilation launches into its second piece, catapulting some three hundred plus years through history to "Sonatine No.1 in F-Sharp Minor, Op.67, II. Largo" by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). Imagine the difference between looking at the intricate detailing on the border of a complex tapestry and a picture of broad sweeping barren landscapes, and you'll understand why it's hard to aurally reconcile the two. There are multiple examples of this throughout the compilation, but the biggest disjoint comes between Grieg's "Sonata in E Minor" and Scriabin's "Deux Morceaux". The melodic nature of the former does nothing to set you up for the latter's almost atonal characteristics and this leaves you practically grinding your teeth.

Griping aside, the advantage to this compilation is the opportunity to hear Gould spin short musical stories. He's not a perfunctory pianist and even on tracks that are as short as two minutes, there is the undeniable obsessive-compulsive style that trademarks his playing. The attention to detail, from the relationship between each note to its neighbor, from each phrase to the next, Gould leaves nothing unexplored. It brings intensity to his interpretations that, when concentrated within a short piece, has an overpowering effect of relentlessness. Scriabin's "Deux Morceaux, Nos. 1 and 2" are two of the highlights. Another pianist could simply skirt over Strauss's "Funt Klavierstucke" as nothing more than just a pretty piece, but Gould manages to inject substance into the repetitive open-ended question phrases by progressively building the case for resolution with each pass of the opening statement.

Sandwiched between pieces from the Romantic movement in the middle of the compilation are two tracks from the Baroque period, "Sonata in A Minor (Württembergische Sonate)" by C.P.E. Bach and "English Suite No.4 in F Major, BWV 809, IV. Sarabande" by J.S. Bach. As with the opening Bach piece, the precision with which he interprets the music is unique to his style, without losing momentum or interest.

In short, this compilation is a disappointment. This is truly a shame because Gould deserves so much more than being the subject of corporate executive marketing. Those interested in learning more about his works should check out Sony's eight Glenn Gould editions.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.