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Gould / Macmillan: String Quartets
Gould, Quatuor Alcan
Gould / Macmillan: String Quartets
Genres: Special Interest, Classical
26 years after his death Glenn Gould remains probably the best-known Canadian — classical musician. A phenomenal and controversial pianist, he was no less — impressive or eccentric as a thinker, writer, and radio producer. H...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Gould, Quatuor Alcan
Title: Gould / Macmillan: String Quartets
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Atma Records
Original Release Date: 1/1/2009
Re-Release Date: 3/31/2009
Genres: Special Interest, Classical
Styles: Chamber Music, Historical Periods, Classical (c.1770-1830)
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 722056259620


Product Description
26 years after his death Glenn Gould remains probably the best-known Canadian
classical musician. A phenomenal and controversial pianist, he was no less
impressive or eccentric as a thinker, writer, and radio producer. However,
Gould defined himself as 'a composer who plays piano'; he started composing at
the age of 5, and before his premature death at the age of 50 planned to devote
himself increasingly to composition. Gould applied the label 'Opus 1' to his String Quartet in F minor. There were to be no higher opus numbers, for Gould then launched his dazzling international career as a pianist. Composed between 1953 and 1955, the period during which he was
getting ready to record the Goldberg Variations for the first time, the quartet
represents an astonishing intellectual mosaic of musical aesthetics. Sir Ernest MacMillan was a dominating figure in Canadian musical life during the
mid-20th century. Principal of the Royal Conservatory of Music, conductor of the
Toronto Symphony Orchestra for 25 years, and long-time organist at Timothy Eaton
Memorial Church (the Forest Hill bastion of Toronto s business elite), MacMillan was
synonymous with classical music in English Canada in a way that seems almost
unimaginable today. MacMillan was on the podium when a 15-year old Glenn
Gould made his TSO debut. (Gould was a Royal Conservatory student, and to
complete the link, spend the last few decades of life living just a few steps from
Timothy Eaton Church.) Produced, recoded and edited by Anne-Marie Sylvestre at the Salle Françoys-
Bernier du Domaine Forget, St-Irénée (Québec), Canada, 2 - 4 April, 2008.

CD Reviews

Glenn Gould's Only Major Composition
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 04/09/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The headliner on this disc is the String Quartet of Glenn Gould, his Opus 1, his only numbered opus and his only major work, written in the early 1950s just before his meteoric rise as a wildly popular and wholly original pianist. It is a thirty-three minute-long single movement that partakes of the compositional style of such post-romantic composers as the early Schoenberg whose string sextet, Verklärte Nacht, is clearly its model. There is dense counterpoint with constantly evolving harmonies which while based clearly in F Minor have a tendency to wander far afield. It is in roughly five parts: introduction and exposition, development (a fugue in the quite distant key of B Minor), altered introduction and exposition, and a final fugue with a huge 300-measure coda. The work is filled with intriguing ideas cheek-by-jowl with almost laughable young-composer 'mistakes' including unidiomatic string writing, awkward transitions and a seeming inability to bring the thing to a close. For all that, though, it is at times hypnotic and certainly a fascinating view into the mind of one of the great musicians of his age. It is played in slightly underpowered style by the Quatuor Alcan, a group made up of the principals of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean Symphony Orchestra, a regional orchestra based in Chicoutimi in the rather remote area due north of Québec City.

There was a recording of the Gould Quartet, made under the composer's supervision, back in the early 1960s by the Symphonia Quartet. I think it is still available. I haven't heard it in years, but my recollection is that it makes the quartet seem more, how shall I say, coherent than the Alcan's version. Still, I think one can get a feeling for what Gould intended from the present recording.

The remaining works on this disc are the String Quartet in C Minor (1914, rev. 1921) and Two Sketches for String Quartet based on French Canadian Airs (1927) by the important and revered Canadian composer/conductor Sir Ernest MacMillan, conductor for more than thirty years of the Toronto Symphony. The Quartet, written by MacMillan at age twenty-one while studying in Germany, is an interesting mix of French impressionist and early twentieth-century British styles, the latter reminiscent of early Frank Bridge or even Edward Elgar. The Two Sketches, based on songs collected by two Canadian anthropologists, is perhaps better known in its orchestral version.

Scott Morrison