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The art of Gould Scott Timberg's "The Cult of...

August 17, 2003

The art of Gould

Scott Timberg's "The Cult of Gould" (Aug. 10) provides us with an interesting article on a fascinating topic, but I feel Timberg misses some of the most cogent points with respect to the art of Glenn Gould.

Gould's eccentricities were mere window dressing; whatever he needed to do for his own psychological and physical comfort remains his own personal business. As Oscar Wilde said, "[A] truly great artist cannot conceive of life being shown, or beauty fashioned, under any conditions other than those that he has selected."

Gould's art in the recordings we now enjoy are what is significant. Specifically speaking of Gould's "fashioned beauty," the following are its most salient features:

* Gould's technical superiority. No pianist since Franz Liszt has exhibited such incredible brilliance in term of celerity and accuracy.

* Gould's timing. By turns lightning fast and glacially slow, Gould's timing is exquisite.

* Gould's interpretations or realizations of the composers' art. Composers have to transmit their intentions via a tricky orthography, which is then further amended by an editor upon printing. Composers/musicians frequently reinterpret their compositions by varying tempi, accents, etc. Gould's art is one of realization and critique -- the quintessential critic as artist.

* Gould's superb taste. He eschewed Schubert and Chopin because their horizontal melodies resisted the vertical manipulation of which he was so fond.

* Lastly, Gould's wise decision to quit the stage and devote his efforts to the production of studio recordings.

It is these qualities that make Gould the greatest keyboardist of the 20th century.

Tully Atkinson

Laguna Niguel

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