Glenn Gould rose meteorically to worldwide acclaim in 1955 with the recording of his interpretation of JS Bach’s Goldberg Variations. One detail which has not been widely discussed is the undoubtable influence on Glenn of the American pianist, Rosalyn Tureck. She had held the reputation as a ‘Bach Specialist’ since the mid-1930’s. In 1948, a fifteen year old Glenn Gould was in the audience for Tureck’s debut performance in Toronto. It is also known that he studied various early recordings of hers in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. She had also recorded the Goldberg before Gould did, on piano, for a small record label.
As most of you know, Gould’s debut recording for Columbia was Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Rosalyn Tureck also recorded it two years later in 1957 for EMI. Listening to her 1957 interpretation one is immediately jolted to hear how slowly she plays the Aria; it is so reminiscent of the version Gould chose to record twenty-four years later! I urge you to seek it out on YouTube!
It is relatively unknown what Tureck felt about Gould’s playing. In a 1985 interview Tureck’s remarks about Gould was: “He took a great, great deal from me. Playing his records I hear myself playing, because I was the only one in the world who did these embellishments.” It is an interesting issue to ponder; how much was Glenn influenced by her playing, and how much was she overshadowed by his ultimate fame?
It is definitely not only the Goldberg that sounds similar. Listening to Tureck’s Bach discography it is difficult to decipher to a degree, who is playing! For me, there are certainly differences in an emotional response to the music, but the clean articulation, minimal pedaling, contrapuntal transparency, and command of musical structure are all very similar. Check it out, and let me know what you think!
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