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Glenn GouldThis week’s Tuesday evening melody is inspired by a listener question’s about last week’s show. On the heels of hearing “Autism and Humanity,” Chase Fairfax posted this comment on our blog:

“I wonder what the orchestra music was that punctuated this story from time to time.”

We think Chase is referring to Glenn Gould’s 1981 version of the “Aria da Capo” of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

Some of Gould’s biographers have speculated that he may have had Asperger’s syndrome. Gould was sensitive to noise and temperature; he hated the sound of clapping and wore a hat, coat, and gloves, even in warm weather. He was also known for rocking and humming when he played. He stopped giving public concerts at the age of 32.

Gould preferred his 1981 rendition rather than his earlier recording from 1955. According to music critic Tim Page who interviewed Gould about the two versions, the 1981 recording “has a certain sadness and sense of reflectiveness… an autumnal quality.” As it turns out, Gould was in the autumn of his own life as these later recordings were being produced; he died of a stroke at the age of 50, just before the 1981 recording was released.

If you want to compare the two versions, check out the show’s playlist for the 1955 version. Which one do you prefer?

Photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.


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2 Comments

The sensitivity of both version is so acute that it's hard to make a preference; actually there is another version recorded live in Salzburg in 1959 that has the energy of a live performance that I am particularly fond of; the tempo is quite similar to the 1955 version, but the tension of "live" is palatable.

Really? I've done a little searching online but haven't found it yet.