Tracking Surround: Glenn Gould SACD

Bach: Goldberg Variations Sony Classical
Performance •••• SACD ••••
Canadian pianist Glenn Gould became a superstar at the age of 23 with his 1955 mono LP of the then relatively unknown Goldberg Variations of J. S. Bach. The recording has been reissued in various formats over the years, remaining a bestseller. In fact, it has never been out of the catalog of Columbia, then CBS, then Sony Classical/Sony BMG Masterworks.

Millions of listeners worldwide have been captivated by the depth of Gould's musicianship and by the dexterity and clear articulation of his technique - not to mention by the genius of Bach's composition. Before this recorded sensation occurred, the piece (when heard at all) was likely to be played on a more authentic instrument, the harpsichord. Gould, perhaps more than anyone else, is responsible for the acceptance of Bach's keyboard works on a modern grand piano.

Now, 24 years after his death and 52 years after his recorded performance, Zenph Studios (zenph.com) offers what it calls a "Re-Performance." Basically, Zenph has taken the original recording and transformed it into high-rez MIDI data, which was fed to a Yamaha Disklavier Pro concert-grand "player piano." That "Re-Performance" was then recorded for this Sony Classical hybrid SACD. Zenph claims to have captured all the nuances of Gould's interpretation, without the tape hiss of mid-1950s mono - or the pianist's humming "sing-along," which could sometimes be heard on the original recording. And the sonically pristine result appears here in three versions: stereo, binaural, and five-channel surround sound.

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