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I have the CD set which includes the earlier and later performances of the Variations by Gould, plus a radio interview. I don't have it here, but I guess that's the set under discussion.

 

The interview is remarkable: both informative as to technique, and embarrassingly wooden. It was scripted by Gould, and includes opportunities for him to crack jokes and do funny voices. Cringe.

 

The two performances are starkly different. I enjoyed both, so do I know?

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My absolute favorite classical piece is Carmina Burana, and fortunately I've been privileged enough to have performed it.

 

Me too! I sang alto... I remember a summer where it was being performed in the Los Angeles area no less than four times by different groups and I saw it all four times. Surprisingly, at the Hollywood Bowl I was aghast there was no gong (you could definitely hear that missing note!). The best was a college group at Chapman College - they "staged" it with various costumes (mostly dark, ritual robes which fed my occult sensibilities for that time of my life) but out-sang all of the "professional" groups who were in bigger, more respectable halls.

 

Second favorite is Dvorak's New World Symphony, which I will be seeing live for the first time this coming April. Other choral faves are the Mozart, Brahms, and Verdi Requiems, as well as Messiah, and I love Russian music in general, particularly Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff. I'm also getting more interested in 20th century works (especially post-WWII), though not some of the more atonal offerings (Schoenberg gets on my nerves).

 

My follow-up fav is the Vivaldi Mass in G - especially the Cum Santo. I liked singing Benjamin Britten and always wished to sing more Gershwin.

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I do think he plays Bach as if he's playing a harpsichord - I guess deliberately. That may be responsible for the heavy-handed effect.

 

I disagree. Listen to Wanda Landowska playing Bach on the harpsichord to hear the difference. Gould is much more "expressive" almost to the point of playing Bach as if he were a composer of the romantic period.

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I do think he plays Bach as if he's playing a harpsichord - I guess deliberately. That may be responsible for the heavy-handed effect.

 

I disagree. Listen to Wanda Landowska playing Bach on the harpsichord to hear the difference. Gould is much more "expressive" almost to the point of playing Bach as if he were a composer of the romantic period.

And I'm with you Lippy. I maxxed out on Wanda years ago. I found I could take only so much of the limited expressive range of the instrument, and with Gould, there is an excitement and dynamism that is not present with Wanda. There are Bach players, like Schiff, who are "smoother" and "elegant" in the style of Brendel playing Beethoven, for example, and this has its place. Pollini combines elegance and excitement like few do.

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I know you didn't ask me, but I don't think there's a single "definitive" set of the Beethoven symphonies; they all have their stregnths and weaknesses, and even in the best, some symphanies work better than others.

 

That said, I think that on the whole (if you have to pick a set), the 1962 (or thereabouts) Karajan/Berlin set is the best.

If you can get a sonically cleaned up recording of Toscannini doing the Beethoven 5th and Eroica, it is worth listerning to.

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Another complete amateur weighing in. I know less than nothing except that I know what I like and many of my choices are heavily influenced by my dance background. So, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, some Tchaikovsky (Symphony in C for instance) from those days.

 

I like Handel, Purcell, Bach, Monteverdi. The Beethoven and Mendelssohn and Haydn and Mozart symphonies. Love Mozart--the clarinet concerto, his operas. I like a lot of opera,actually, but not Wagner. I like vocal music in general. Mozart's Requiem is a piece that sends shivers down my spine.

 

I grew up with parents who played show music, a little jazz, singers like Sinatra and Ella, and rock/pop. No classical music.

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If you can get a sonically cleaned up recording of Toscannini doing the Beethoven 5th and Eroica, it is worth listerning to.

 

Even better is the Seventh Toscanini recorded with the New York Philharmonic, years before the NBC Symphony Orchestra.

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I maxxed out on Wanda years ago.

 

She famously said in response to a pianist's criticism of her interpretation: "That's fine - you play Bach your way and I'll play Bach his way."

 

 

Of course, she was right. But then we get into that useless debate of "what I like and what is right." I never saw that as a choice.

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