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

By Kevin Bazzana | Go to book overview

9 Ornamentation

IN THE MATTER of ornamentation, Gould differed from most performers in the degree to which he avoided generic solutions to individual problems. Adapting ornamentation to articulate a musical event, or to suit the general character of a work, he often permitted himself to depart significantly from conventional and historical practices. While his ornamentation could only occasionally be described as analytical in motivation, it did often contribute to the unity of an interpretation. His attitude towards ornaments was, again, consistent with the intellectual premisses of Schoenberg and his followers: Schoenberg, for example, wrote in 1922 that 'in true works of art nothing is an ornament in the sense that one could leave it out'.1 As we will see, Gould's ornamentation, in repertoire from all periods, reflects this aesthetic premiss in the ways it serves the music.

As early as the 1940s, Gould was introduced to matters of historical practice in ornamentation, largely through Alberto Guerrero,2 though his insight into the historical sources did not keep pace with the explosion of post-war scholarship on the subject. Still, it is apparent throughout his discography that he had a respectable working knowledge of ornamentation, and his early recordings especially are relatively uncontroversial in this regard. (With ornamentation, too, his experiments grew more idiosyncratic after his retirement from concert life in 1964.) He often rendered trills, turns, mordents, appoggiaturas, slides, and other commonplace ornaments in conventional ways, in terms of melodic and rhythmic profile, auxiliary notes, phrasing, and character. In Baroque and Classical music, he played brief ornamental cadenzas at appropriate spots marked with a fermata. And many of the less common ornaments that appear in his recordings are accounted for in historical sources: the appoggiatura used to replace an indicated or expected trill; the grace-note (i.e. pre-beat) appoggiatura; the long mordent; the Schneller, a sort of inverted mordent; the sharp (often humorous) acciaccatura; the anticipation; the leaping Vorschlag (i.e. an accented grace that leaps to the main note); the unaccented Nachschlag (i.e. a grace that connects two main notes); the five-note

____________________
1
Schoenberg, 299.
2
Beckwith, "'Glenn Gould, the Early Years'", 59, says that Guerrero, in the 1940s, steered his students towards Dolmetsch, and to some of the original treatises cited by Dolmetsch ( C. P. E. Bach, Couperin, Quantz, Leopold Mozart), then just beginning to appear in modern editions.

-228-

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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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