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Instant Replay

March 24, 2007

I can't say that I'm a lover of classical music, but there are certain compositions that I do love. Many of Bach's keyboard works, for example, have an intricacy that I find very compelling. Probably no recordings of Bach keyboard compositions are more renowned than Glenn Gould's two versions of the Goldberg Variations. Recorded in 1955 and 1981, Gould's Goldbergs stand as testaments to a singular talent and his unique interpretive powers. I've heard these recordings so many times that I have memorized every note and every one of Gould's well-known vocalizations.

Gould died in 1982, but late last year he once again played the Goldberg Variations for a live audience thanks to Zenph Studios, a North Carolina-based company that has taken a technological approach to keyboard music. Zenph uses computers to reproduce recorded solo-piano performances note for note, phrase for phrase. Recordings are turned into MIDI files that are fed to a computer-controlled grand piano for playback identical to the original. Zenph calls the resulting music a "re-performance" -- a "live realization of the original interpretation."

The first release to use Zenph's technique, of Glenn Gould's 1955 rendition of the Goldberg Variations, was recorded live in the CBC's Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto on September 25, 2006,. This would have been Gould’s 74th birthday. The soon-to-be-available SACD has both multichannel and binaural mixes of the program, the latter optimized for headphone listening. I haven't heard this SACD -- it's not due out until May 29 -- but I find the entire project fascinating. You'll read comments on this recording from Rad Bennett on Ultra Audio and Richard Freed here on SoundStage!...Marc Mickelson, editor@soundstage.com


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