Does the latest technology applied to the genius of Glenn Gould (1932-82) really bring the artist back to life?
The electronic wizards at Zenph Studios would have you think so. This “re-performance” on a Yamaha Disklavier Pro Grand Piano was made in September at the Glenn Gould Studios in Canada, then edited and mixed by Sony.
A Disklavier is a computerized player piano that uses a special compact disc to re-create a performance live. The sophistication of today’s technology made it possible for the Zenph/Sony people to remaster Gould’s revelatory 1955 recording and transform it into something that a real Yamaha concert grand would recognize as a pianist playing its keys.
Decades ago, hearing the original mono recording in a class with a Bach-loving professor helped inspire my decision to spend my life in music. Gould’s performance is a confluence of demonic energy, awe-inspiring virtuosity, galloping emotions and reverence for the music of Bach; if you’ve never heard it, I urge you to find a copy. I pulled it off the shelf to compare with the artist’s “new” performance.
There is no comparison.
The beauty of Gould’s touch, the rippling delicacy of his runs, the minutely subtle changes in pressure from one note to the next to shape a phrase and the sense of spontaneous discovery remain just as fresh and absorbing today on the original performance despite the technological limits of the mid-1950s.
Whether the problem with the “re-performance” is the computerized disc or the Yamaha piano (Gould played a Steinway) — or both — doesn’t really matter. The notes and tempos might be there for the Disklavier to “play” Bach, but a computerized disc — no matter how sophisticated — is not Gould playing Bach, regardless of how desperately the folks at Yamaha, Zenph and Sony would like us to think it is..
if that doesn’t work try