I’ve been looking at a lot of classical music to improve my classical collection. And so I started at the top of the lost - with Bach. I had a “no name” copy of the Goldberg variations and I went looking for a better version. Then I sat that the legendary Glenn Gould had made a digital recording of it in the early 80s shortly before his death, and several reviews raved about it. So I go to Rhapsody to listen…
Jebus, it was unlistenable! It wasn’t the quality of the recording or the playing, it was Gould’s VOICE. He hums along while he plays, he mutters what sound like lyrics, but the volume of his voice is too low to understand the words. And, there are no lyrics, not that I know of.
The first part is called “Aria”, and I thought for a bit there was a terribly recorded vocal track, or maybe there had been good vocal track and someone did a terrible job of trying to get rid of it. But no, I did some more looking around at discussion boards and other review sites, and started finding references to Gould’s “vocalizations”. And even at these places, I didn’t see any explicit condemnation of the album – about the strongest comment I saw was that the voice “is a little off-putting”.
What was otherwise a brilliant performance was completely ruined by … well I don’t know who to blame. Perhaps Gould had a producer who was too scared of him to say anything. Or perhaps Gould was already sinking into senility and they wanted to get whatever product they could out of him before he died.
Please. Don’t mutter while you’re playing an instrument. Don’t hum the notes under your breath while a microphone is in range. The only other person I know who does something close to that is George Benson, but he actually sings the notes aloud and his voice accompanies his guitar – which I rather like.
Anyway, I’m really sorry to learn what may have been Gould’s last album was a waste of effort.