On his birthday, Glenn Gould offers wise words on the tension between curators and inventors
This being the day Glenn Gould would have turned 79, I sat down to sample another one of the 10 DVDs that Sony Classical has released in the new boxed set, Glenn Gould on Television: The Complete CBC Broadcasts.
I chose "Music for a Sunday Afternoon," for obvious reasons, plus wanting to hear him play Mozart (Sonata No. 13 in B-flat) and Beethoven (Sonata No. 17 in D minor -- the Tempest).
I can't warm up to his interpretations, but I loved his 4-minute introduction, where he explains how he can't possibly say anything original about Beethoven in such a short space of time. He does, however, say something that comes from the core of the interpreter's art.
He speaks of how Beethoven straddled Classicism and Romanticism, paying homage to the past while nodding to the great effusion of personal expression that would mark the 19th century. He call this "the inventor at odds with the museum curator."
This is exactly what anyone interpreting music from the past faces -- as well as anyone trying to judge or appreciate a concert. There is a tradition to honour, and an act of creation to carry through. Both walk arm in arm.
Some performances are the acts of museum curators. We can walk away appreciating their form or the inherent beauty of the music. But the real spark comes when the performer stirs in an act of invention, bringing an immediacy and energy to the score.
Love or hate the interpretations, Gould brought that tension to every note he played, and that's what made him so special.
It was precisely this energy that animated the Toronto's Symphony's season-opening concert a few days ago. It was an energy that reminded me how much I already miss my old job as music critic, but also lifted my mood instantly -- as, I think, it felt like it did for most people sitting in Roy Thomson Hall.
The CBC has launched a new Gould site full of interesting stuff to check out. You'll find it here.
To do any job well, one needs to be totally present for it. In my new life as a business reporter, it has meant very limited time to listen, read or play music over the past four weeks.
I can't imagine being able to make a meaningful contribution to the appreciation of music under these circumstances but, I'm realising today, that if I feel sufficiently inspired, I might put a word or two down here once in a while, as long as the Star keeps this blog up on the website.