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On this, the seventieth anniversary of his birth, Sony Classical has been engaged in a comprehensive re-release of Gould's recorded oeuvre. Each CD is handsomely packaged, with thorough liner notes and a glorious series of cover photographs of the pianist. As if that were not treat enough, these re-issues are offered at a bargain price too.

For those who do not know the saga of CD 318, the official tag attached to the piano Gould became virtually wedded to, the details are all here. 'It's my Richard Strauss piano,' he wrote in typically eulogistic mood; 'it's my Bach piano, it's my piano for playing William Byrd ... It's a chest of whistles, it's a set of virginals, it's just about anything you want to make of it. It's an extraordinary piano.' It could also be recalcitrant and, in the recording of the Inventions and Sinfonias, extremely poorly, issuing a series of bizarre clunks and clicks, which Gould refers to as 'a slight nervous tic in the middle registers', adding that he considers this a 'charming idiosyncrasy.' Listener beware.

Those unacquainted with Gould's habit of humming along rather less tunefully than he plays, are also in for a surprise. At this point, one may wonder why Columbia stuck with him all those years, or why any but the curious or masochistic would want to listen to the results. His admirers will offer reasons, and each will depend to some extent on the character of the listener. I make no claims to speak for anyone beyond myself.

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Copyright © 25 December 2002 Rex Harley, Cardiff, UK


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