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

By Kevin Bazzana | Go to book overview

Conclusion

THIS STUDY HAS revealed both consistencies and contradictions in Glenn Gould's work and thought, and it was, of course, the sum of these conMany conclusions about his achievement are possible, but he cannot be assigned to any one intellectual stream or school of performance: he was too eclectic. One source of his eclecticism was surely the relative insularity of his upbringing: his provincialism, amply documented in the biographical literature, certainly helps explain both the strengths and weaknesses, the originality and the banality, in his thinking. From the beginning of his musical life, he obviously felt less pressure to conform to mainstream conventions than do more cosmopolitan musicians moulded by peer pressure, the conservatory system, and the competition circuit. Throughout his career, he proved to be unusually open to ideas and practices from a wide range of sources, some of them seemingly conflicting, and he was always willing to let non-musical ideas directly influence his playing. His work reveals an idiosyncratic union of many aesthetic ideas and styles; Romanticism, early modernism, neo-Classicism, post- modernism, even aspects of pre-Enlightenment thought, have all been cited, in different contexts, in this book. But no one 'ism' suffices to characterize him, and he never felt the need to conform consistently to any one aesthetic school. (The Romantics' insistence on creative interpretation but not their devotion to instrumental sonority; the modernists' structuralism but not their teleological view of history; the neo-Classicists' orderliness but not their claims to objectivity.) Yet the final result of Gould's eclecticism was not chaos, but rather a peculiar and coherent synthesis that defined his aesthetic.

We have seen that he was decisively influenced by many precepts of such modernist traditions as structuralism and formalism, especially as applied to music by Schoenberg and his disciples. The idealist, analytical, and contrapuntal orientations of his thinking about music; his privileging of structure over sonority, of unity over variety, of the 'thematic' over the 'ornamental'; his fondness for 'logical' procedures like fugue and developing variation; his acceptance of (indeed, snobbishness about) the Austro-German canon of absolute music; his desire to convey a work in performance as an integral 'idea' or Gestalt--all were clearly influenced by the Schoenberg aesthetic. Yet in many ways the distinctive piano style that he developed had as much in common with the neo-Classicism of Stravinsky as with Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern, who as composers and performers never rejected

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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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