Actually I haven't quite bought it yet: it's still in the cart. Now I have second thoughts about it, as my initial enthusiasm is considerably dampened by the use of the Yamaha in this recording. I am a die-hard Steinway aficionado (being an owner of Steinways) and don't like Yamahas in general.
Christine Tham's suspicion that the Yamaha was tuned like a Steinway has been answered in the piano tuner's interview (link on the zenph page), an interesting article in itself. But immediately I have a problem with that. Why make a Yamaha sound like a Steinway? Some Yamaha concert grands can sound very good when carefully prepared but to make one sound like a Steinway can only be imitation. It can never be the real article.
I remember reading somewhere that Gould's Steinway had certain modifications made so that it is more percussive and sounds more like a harpsichord for playing Bach. Some metal pins were inserted in the hammers, or something like that. This I don't a problem with.
The reason for not using Gould's Steinway or another Steinway I suspect is mainly because the Disklavier mechanism is built for Yamahas and it might not be technically possible or desirable to do that on a Steinway. Of course, Yamaha would want to promote their pianos for this project. And I suppose nobody would want to do anything to Gould's Yamaha.
I listened to a few tracks from the original 1955 recording again last night (the GG 20-bit remastered edition) and despite being in mono and somewhat restricted in dynamics and range, holds up very well. There is a sense of intimacy: I feel like sitting close to the piano, perhaps at the keyboard. The mono sound has a degree of warmth.
The 1955 recording in just under 40 minutes. I haven't re-listened to the whole work but it'd be safe to say there're very few or no repeats. With all the repeats this work fills up the whole CD or even spills over to the second disc (like Rosalyn Tureck's two recordings - re-issued on "Great Pianists" series and new recording on DG).
The tempo of the whole piece in the 1955 recording on the whole sounds right to me. It flows better. The aria in the 1981 recording is considerably slower and the whole work can sound a bit too mannered or contrived at times.
The differences in the emotional impact, which Tham brought up in the review, is just the issue that bothers me. The new recording sounds cleaner, the notes are clearer, the foot tapping and humming are gone but hasn't the essence of Gould been removed? Is it too clean?
If Gould is alive today I'll be less intrigued by what he thinks of this new recording than by the possibility that he'll give us another new interpretation.
I wonder if this is going to be a start of a series of re-performance recordings: are we going to have the same on Horowitz (he never played the Yamaha), Richter (he did play the Yamaha in his later years) and the like?
So I ask myself: do I need this new recording, given that I really like the original? Is it going to give me something the original cannot? But for US$12.99 I might just consider it, if anything as a mere record of this event.