Speakers Corner / Columbia - ML 5130 - 180 Gram Virgin Vinyl
AAA 100% Analogue - Mastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearant Audio
Pressed at Pallas - Mono - Limited Edition
Ludwig van Beethoven:
Piano Sonatas No. 30 in E major op. 109, No. 31 in A-flat major op. 110, No. 32 in C minor op. 111 - Glenn Gould (p)
Myths abound when it comes to the late works of important composers. It is debatable as to whether this is due to their timelessness, or their often extensive form, which makes great demands on the listener, or simply the supreme skill with regard to the composer’s own musical language, which is demonstrated in mature works. It is commonly understood that a performer of late works should treat them with due respect and possess an exceptional command of his instrument. But not so with Glenn Gould, who at the tender age of 23, shortly after his recording debut for the Columbia label of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, dared to perform Beethoven’s last three Piano Sonatas.
Gould, as always analytical, yet supremely flowing, carves out the tightly-knit contrapuntal structure of the fast movements. The slow movements are finely perceived though free of contemplative sentiment and waft gently through the air, here somewhat drily dabbed at, then again singing and full of round, melodious piano sound. Bar for bar it is noticeable that the young Gould knows exactly what he is doing and with whom he is dealing. Here in the hands of this young maestro Beethoven’s spirit is certainly compelling and intoxicating.
Born in Toronto in 1932, Gould first studied piano with his mother who was a voice teacher. At ten he went to the Toronto Conservatory of Music where he studied piano with Albert Guerrero, organ with Frederick C. Silvester and theory with Leo Smith. Concurrently, Gould studied at Malvern Collegiate Institute. At fifteen he gave his recital début in Toronto and within a few years was regularly appearing on Canadian radio and television. Tours of Western Canada followed, and by 1955 Gould, already one of Canada’s outstanding musicians, made his American début in Washington D.C. The recital, consisting of Bach, late Beethoven, Webern and Berg, was repeated in New York whereupon Gould was immediately signed to CBS records. The release of his 1955 recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, (8.111247) spread his name around the world as this was Bach playing of a style that was wholly new.
Gould made his New York orchestral début with the New York Philharmonic and Leonard Bernstein playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 19, and later that year made his début in Berlin with Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. From 1955 Gould performed regularly throughout North America, and between 1957 and 1959 played in the USSR, Israel and Western Europe. Gould was in demand everywhere and played with the greatest orchestras and conductors until 1964 when he retired from the concert stage. He was only 32, but did not like the experience of concert giving, finding it traumatic and unpleasant. Increasingly eccentric and always fastidious and particular about his health, he found the option of editing a recording to his satisfaction far preferable to performing.
Gould recorded for Columbia/CBS from 1955 until his death, and when asked by Columbia what he would like to record as a follow up to his highly successful Goldberg Variations he replied that it should be the last three sonatas by Beethoven. Gould was 23 at the time and the repertoire he had selected was usually reserved for mature pianists with a lifetime of experience of music and the world behind them. It is not, however, such an eccentric choice as it appears, because Gould was already performing the late Beethoven sonatas in his recitals and played some at his earliest appearances in America. Also, these works contain a good deal of fugal writing, something Gould was particularly fond of. The three sonatas were recorded in seven sessions between 20th and 29th June 1956 at Columbia’s 30th Street Studios in New York City.
With hindsight, and after all the contemporary dust had settled, these recordings can be seen as revealing rather than eccentric, a perfectly valid interpretation and not one to be dismissed as the immature utterings of a would-be iconoclast. After all, it is better to be provoked than to be bored. At the time of its release a rather more fair-minded critic wrote of the recording that ‘it must too be admitted that these sonatas as played here are never dull. Diffident performances would be worse than speckles of effrontery at which we wince; for, after all, a wince is a stimulus.
Recording: June 1956 at Columbia 30th Street Studio, New York, by Fred Plaut in mono
Production: Howard H. Scott
Glenn Gould, piano
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Sonata No. 30 In E Major, Op. 109
A1 I - Vivace, Ma Non Troppo, Sempre Legato
A2 II - Prestissimo
A3 III - Andante Molto Cantabile Ed Espressivo; Variations I-VI
Sonata No. 31 In A-Flat Major, Op. 110
A4 I - Moderato Cantabile Molto Espressivo
A5 II - Allegro Molto
A6 III - Adagio No Non Troppo (Beginning)
B1 III - Fuga (Conclusion)
Sonata No. 32 In C Minor, Op. 111
B2 I - Maestoso; Allegro Con Brio Ed Appassionato
B3 II - Arietta (Adagio Molto Semplice E Cantabile)
Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109
Sonata No. 31 in A-flat Major, Op. 110
Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111
Recorded June 1956 at Columbia 30th Street Studio, New York
20 Years pure Analogue
Are your records completely analogue?
Yes! This we guarantee!
As a matter of principle, only analogue masters are used, and the necessary cutting delay is also analogue. All our cutting engineers use only Neumann cutting consoles, and these too are analogue. The only exception is where a recording has been made – either partly or entirely – using digital technology, but we do not have such items in our catalogue at the present time
Are your records cut from the original masters?
In our re-releases it is our aim to faithfully reproduce the original intentions of the musicians and recording engineers which, however, could not be realised at the time due to technical limitations. Faithfulness to the original is our top priority, not the interpretation of the original: there is no such thing as a “Speakers Corner Sound”. Naturally, the best results are obtained when the original master is used. Therefore we always try to locate these and use them for cutting. Should this not be possible, – because the original tape is defective or has disappeared, for example – we do accept a first-generation copy. But this remains an absolute exception for us.
Who cuts the records?
In order to obtain the most faithful reproduction of the original, we have the lacquers cut on the spot, by engineers who, on the whole, have been dealing with such tapes for many years. Some are even cut by the very same engineer who cut the original lacquers of the first release. Over the years the following engineers have been and still are working for us: Tony Hawkins, Willem Makkee, Kevin Gray, Maarten de Boer, Scott Hull, and Ray Staff, to name but a few.
At the beginning of the ‘90s, in the early days of audiophile vinyl re-releases, the reissue policy was fairly straightforward. Companies such as DCC Compact Classics, Mobile Fidelity, Classic Records and others, including of course Speakers Corner, all maintained a mutual, unwritten code of ethics: we would manufacture records sourced only from analogue tapes.
Vinyl’s newfound popularity has led many other companies to jump on the bandwagon in the hope of securing a corner of the market. Very often they are not so ethical and use every imaginable source from which to master: CDs, LPs, digital files and even MP3s.
Even some who do use an analogue tape source employ a digital delay line, a misguided ’80s and ‘90s digital technology that replaces the analogue preview head originally used to “tell” the cutter head in advance what was about to happen musically, so it could adjust the groove “pitch” (the distance between the grooves) to make room for wide dynamic swings and large low frequency excursions. Over time analogue preview heads became more rare and thus expensive.
So while the low bit rate (less resolution than a 16 bit CD) digital delay line is less expensive and easier to use than an analogue “preview head”, its use, ironically, results in lacquers cut from the low bit rate digital signal instead of from the analogue source!
Speakers Corner wishes to make clear that it produces lacquers using only original master tapes and an entirely analogue cutting system. New metal stampers used to press records are produced from that lacquer. The only exceptions are when existing metal parts are superior to new ones that might be cut, which includes our release of “Elvis is Back”, which was cut by Stan Ricker or several titles from our Philips Classics series, where were cut in the 1990s using original master tapes by Willem Makkee at the Emil Berliner Studios. In those cases we used only the original “mother” to produce new stampers.
In addition, we admit to having one digital recording in our catalogue: Alan Parsons’ “Eye in the Sky”, which was recorded digitally but mixed to analogue tape that we used to cut lacquers.
In closing, we want to insure our loyal customers that, with but a few exceptions as noted, our releases are “AAA”— analogue tape, an all analogue cutting system, and newly cut lacquers.
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