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Zenph Glenn Gould "Reperformance"

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Don't know if this has been posted before, but a CD "reperformance" of Glenn Gould's 1955 Goldberg Variations has been released today. It's a SACD hybrid with 5.1 surround, as well as 2-channel binaural sound for headphones. I was very skeptical initially, because I'm a huge fan of the original recording and the idea of mucking with it is almost blasphemous, but the reviews seem quite positive. I've ordered it from amazon, so I'll post when I've taken a listen...


I'd be interested to read everyone's take on this one...
post #2 of 15
I saw a review of this on either Classics Today or SA-CD.net recently. The review was quite positive, if I recall correctly.

post #3 of 15
Here's another glowing review.

Mine shipped yesterday from amazon.ca even though it was released today. Looking forward to comparing it to the 1981 performance SACD.
post #4 of 15
I pre-ordered this from Amazon last week out of curiosity, having read the news on sa-cd.net. I personally prefer this 1955 recording to the 1981, if the SACD is just stereo I'd still get it. The 1981 recording on SACD sounds great. The problem with Glenn Gould's Goldberg recordings (all of them AFAIK) is that he omits a lot of the repeats.

I note this new recording is made on a Yamaha. I always had the impression that the 1955 recording was made on his Steinway whereas the 1981 on his Yamaha.
post #5 of 15
Hmm - this just arrived - I'll listen tonight and post back.

1955 GV was on Steinway CD174
1981 GV was on Yamaha CF Concert Grand

in between he had his Steinway CD318
post #6 of 15
Thanks for the info. I've placed an order for this recording. $13 on Amazon for a multichannel SACD can't be beat. The recording process sounds quite remarkable:

"Zenph's new process of capturing a performance is incredibly complex because, in order to play back a piece of music, they need to make the jump from the audio that we hear to performance data. It's sort of like the way scanners with optical character recognition can turn a picture of a document into a word-processing file you can edit.

First, they save the original recording to the computer as a sound file, then the software can begin its analysis. It tracks exactly when each note was hit, how loudly, with what kind of attack, and when and how it was released. Add to that the complexity of what a note does in the air after it's played, interacting with the room's acoustics and other notes around it. "

If only Zenph could be induced to tackle The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway :-)
post #7 of 15
Wow - just gave this a listen through (SACD layer). Very very nice. The repeats are not included but it really doesn't matter. The surround mix is good (and subtle). I listened to the 1981 SACD afterwards and was again distracted by the humming in the background, but hey, that's Glenn Gould. Note the Aria is a different tempo but the Variations are very similar time wise between 1955 and 1981.

Will be interesting to dig out some headphones and listen to the Binaural recordings - done with the head where Gould's would have been when playing, so in effect, you are Gould playing..... note that these tracks are only accessible on the redbook layer.

I don't have the 1955 mono to compare to, just the 1981 SACD, so cannot comment directly on the accuracy of this new re-performance recording method that Zenph is using. There is quite a good review here by Christine Tham that compares the original 1955 with this 'version':
post #8 of 15
Keep your eyes on this thread at head-fi.org on playback quality of the binaural version of this recording.

I am getting this SACD myself.
post #9 of 15
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.
post #10 of 15
Here is a reviewer that has similar feelings towards 'if you have the 1955 mono, then do I need this one' comments you make:

I do disagree with this comment in that review:

"Objectively, this is probably unfair, but our fallible psyches don't often work objectively and thus may allow the "re-performance" to seem to some degree sterile, deprived of the human qualities we associate with gritty LP surfaces and an assuring level of distortion to mark a historical recording as being of its time."

Just because something may have been recorded with the technology available in 1955 doesn't mean it needs to always be listened to that way to enjoy it (noise, distortion, etc).

For the price can you not get it, if only for the interesting technology.
post #11 of 15
Originally Posted by PaulT_BC View Post

For the price can you not get it, if only for the interesting technology.

That's the reason I'm getting it. Zenph probably realised that interest in the product of their Gould project would have to be accompanied by a price sweet spot for it to sell in any noticeable numbers.
Mine's on its way from Amazon.
post #12 of 15
you can hook up a disc player to a Steinway.Guess the thing is it was already installed in the Yamaha.I've never heard of inserting pins in the hammers but there is a technic which you harden the hammers with a concentration on chemicals.
post #13 of 15
Most of my music books are stored in boxes so I can't instantly go and look it up but I remember it's more than just applying chemicals (like what Franz Mohr did to Horowitz's piano for the Rach 3 concert). Could be staples, not pins, something metallic - something that no piano technician would normally do but for Glenn Gould it's a different matter.

Maybe I should get the mechanism fitted to my piano - so GG can 'play' on my piano!

Psychology is important in music. The main problem I have is not the lack of humming and tapping.
post #14 of 15
Received my copy today and am listening to it for the second time (haven't as yet sought out my copy of the original 1955 recording to compare).

First impressions are most enjoyable. The strong rhythmic sense and sense of pulse that we all love from Gould is there, as I'd expect to be feeling/hearing when listening to most of Gould's recorded output. I'll have to listen more carefully and do a direct comparison with the 1955 mono original (as far as doing so is really possible, with my never having heard Gould in real life and only knowing him from mainly older recordings; several of which are concert recordings i.e. only knowing his sound through sub-optimal acoustic conditions - as produced by those recordings - and thereby probably having been given an incorrect idea of what Gould really sounded like. But fact remains that the sound from those old Gould recordings is how I nowadays know Gould).

It's a bit difficult to articulate, but my fear in general with the Zenph re-performance concept is that I'll have a tough time when comparing these Zenph re-performances to the originals (as is the case with the Cortot 1926 example that Zenph provide on their site) as I've got used to the character of the playing of historical pianists as (re-)produced on the historical recordings released by companies like Music & Arts and Vai etc.
Listening to the "same performance" re-performed and recorded under modern circumstances has so far given me the impression that the character of the performance is different (much more so with the Cortot comparison than the Gould SACD).
I suspect that there's a good amount of fear of my being disappointed by some of my favourite pianists, as one advantage of the eggs 'n bacon scratching away in the background of historical recordings is that it probably covers many quirks/imperfections in the playing and muffles much of the detail, often pretty much forcing you to focus much more on the character of their playing as that's in large part what remains audible.

Anyway, to get back to the Gould SACD specifically, I'm now wondering if the character of the re-performance may turn out to be somewhat subdued compared to the 1955 original.
If I have anything relevant to say after making the direct comparison, I'll take up some more space on this thread again

PS All the above blah blah aside, this SACD is worth buying (especially at the price) for anyone interested; whether in Bach, Gould or just the results of this Zenph project.
If anything it might encourage more releases of historical pianists on SACD!! and give us more and better opportunities to see how we feel about Zenph re-performances.
post #15 of 15
Here's the link to the Classics Today review:


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