Glenn Gould: The Performer in the Work: A Study in Performance Practice

By Kevin Bazzana | Go to book overview

2
The Role of the Performer

The Work, the Score, and the Performer as Creator

GOULD'S IDEALISM, however commonplace in principle, was directly responsible for his unusual freedom in realizing works in performance. Believing that a musical work existed apart from performance, he considered the profile of the music in performance--how the music sounded--to be a function of a specific interpretation, not an integral part of the work. Contrapuntal balances, rhythmic nuances, dynamic levels, articulation, tone colour, instrumentation-- even where specified by the composer--were all subject to the performer's will without compromising the identity or status of the work. (This was a matter of principle, and did not depend on how precise the music's notation was.) In other words, for Gould 'the work' was not equivalent to 'the score', in the conventional sense of 'everything on the printed page', including both the notes and the supplementary words and symbols intended to shape the profile of the work in performance.1 He was in accord with a theoretical position put forward by Nelson Goodman, that only what can be considered notation (that is, what can be specified quantitatively) can be considered to define a work--in essence, pitches and rhythms.2 Goodman denies that there can be 'correct' renderings of, say, dynamics because these cannot (in the present Western system, at least) be fixed quantitatively--cannot be part of the notation. Goodman's view demands a distinction between the identity and the aesthetic character of a musical work--if only what is notational in a score defines the work, then its aesthetic character can vary substantially without its identity changing. It is a controversial position, much criticized in the literature on aesthetics and rare among practising performers. Most writers and musicians, it is fair to say, believe that a work must possess certain fixed aesthetic properties, conveyed through prescriptive performance directions, if it is to retain its identity and make sense; for most it is disturbing, absurd, even potential chaos to suggest that a piece might be played either andante or allegro, piano or forte, dolce or maestoso. But Gould seems to have been willing to entertain just such possibilities. Like Goodman, he put all non-notational directions into the

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1
In his copy of Prisms, Gould flagged Adorno's comments to this effect, with which he was obviously sympathetic ("The musical score is never identical with the work . . .'); see NLC B1, 144.
2
Goodman explains his five qualifications for notationality in Languages of Art, 127-73.

-36-

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Glenn Gould: The Performer in the Work: A Study in Performance Practice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS vii
  • Contents xiii
  • CONTENTS OF CD xiv
  • LIST OF PLATES xv
  • Contents xvi
  • NOTES ON FORMAT xviii
  • Abbreviations xxii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - PREMISSES 9
  • 1 - Aesthetics and Repertoire 11
  • 2 - The Role of the Performer 36
  • 3 - Performance as Discourse 85
  • Part II - PRACTICES 129
  • 4 - Gould and the Piano 131
  • 5 - Counterpoint 142
  • 6 - Rhythm 160
  • 7 - Dynamics 204
  • 8 - Articulation and Phrasing 215
  • 9 - Ornamentation 228
  • 10 - Recording Technology 238
  • Conclusion 253
  • LIST OF GOULD PERFORMANCES CITED 269
  • BIBLIOGRAPHY. 277
  • Index 291
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