Recently, Gould has become the sacred cow, the one whose influence must now be resisted and overturned. Pierre-Laurent Aimard charged him with living in “an exclusively Glenn Gould world.” Jeremy Denk, in a recent piece in The New Republic, argued that Gould had immortalized not Bach but his own eccentricities, which he grafted onto the music with gleeful perversity. Fellow Canadian Angela Hewitt said something similar: “I find his style too crazy. It’s more about him than about Bach.”
There is merit to these charges, and all three of these superb pianists have played Bach in their own, very different way. The glory of being a listener, though, is that it’s never an either-or situation: You are not required to disclaim Gould’s supposed heresies to enjoy what someone else has to offer. More important, the criticism is unlikely to alter the fact that to a remarkable extent, Gould continues to set the agenda for what we listen for when we hear Bach played on the piano, even when what we hear rejects his legacy completely. His Bach is our Bach. Gould-Bach.
David Weininger can be reached at email@example.com.