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Goldberg Out-takes

By Richard Green and Gilles St-Laurent,
Music Division

Glenn Gould's 1982 digital recording of J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations was the last recording to be released in his lifetime. It formed an appropriate dénouement to his career which first received international acclaim in 1955 with his monophonic recording of the same work.

Behind the seamless playing we hear on the disc, lie many hours of painstaking work by Gould and his production staff. The recording of such a work is not simply a matter of capturing a single continuous performance; recording with Gould involved many hours of taping and editing. The sessions for the 1982 release were no exception.

Gould permitted French film-maker Bruno Monsaingeon to videotape the 1981 recording sessions of the Goldberg Variations for the third program in the television series Glenn Gould Plays Bach. As part of its Glenn Gould Collection, the National Library has all of these programs on videotape, and is also fortunate to have nine videotapes of "out-takes" from the Goldberg Variations. This unique raw footage of Gould allows us to see, for perhaps the only time, how he worked in the recording studio.

While many of Glenn Gould's radio and television appearances appear to be casual, off-the-cuff conversations and monologues, they were, in fact, carefully scripted. Likewise, the piano performances were a montage of "takes" recorded over weeks or even months. What the National Library's video "out-takes" show is Glenn Gould, unedited, in the process of creating. We see Gould continually elaborating a mental conception of the work, making critical comments regarding "takes", and transforming his thoughts into a coherent interpretation. It is fascinating to witness Gould perform in a near trance-like state, acting as the medium between mind and music.

Researchers can make arrangements to view these tapes by contacting the Music Division at the National Library.

Source: National Library news. Nouvelles de la Bibliothèque nationale
Ottawa, Library and Archives Canada. -- v. ill., ports. 23-28 cm. -- Vol. 24, no. 7 (September 1992). -- ISSN 0027-9633. -- P. 7
© Library and Archives Canada. Reproduced with the permission of the Estate of Glenn Gould and Glenn Gould Limited.

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