Auctions | November 14, 2018

The Holy Grail of Glenn Gould Manuscripts at Bonhams

Goldberg V.jpgNew York - On December 5, Bonhams Books and Manuscripts sale will offer Glenn Gould's extensively annotated copy of his recording for the second "Goldberg Variations," one of the most significant and well-known interpretations in classical music (estimate: $100,000-150,000). This annotated complete score and accompanying notes offer profound insight into the landmark recording. Gould manuscripts are very rare in the marketplace, with no substantial Gould manuscript ever having been sold at auction.

Darren Sutherland, Books and Manuscripts Specialist, commented: "It's very exciting to offer this extensively annotated Glenn Gould score from his 1981 recording of the Goldberg Variations. The vast majority of Gould material is held institutionally, and never reaches the private market."

Pianist Glenn Gould (1932-1982) of Canada, rocketed to stardom in 1955 with his recording of his interpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach's Aria mit verschiedenen Veränderungen (Aria with Diverse Variations), popularly known as the Goldberg Variations. The work comprises a set of 30 contrapuntal variations, beginning and ending with an aria. The piece had long been considered, when considered at all, as too esoteric and demanding to be part of the standard piano repertoire, with very few pianists even attempting it. Glenn Gould's innovative 1955 recording changed all of that. He had first played the Goldberg Variations in concert in 1954, and the composition became a staple of his performances. But it was his 1955 recording that launched his career as an international figure, fast becoming one of the world's best-known piano recordings. In 1964, at the pinnacle of his performing career, Gould retired from performing at the age of 30. Increasingly dissatisfied with his 1955 original, Gould made a new recording of the Goldberg Variations in 1981, this time with years of experience behind him. It was released a week before he died in 1982, winning a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Solo Performance, and it now stands as the coda to Gould's outstanding career.

These pages offer an important window into Gould's famous final recording, as he notes in minutiae the timings of various takes and levels, while sometimes emphasizing pauses, microphone placements, etc. The four additional manuscript pages likewise contain notes on the recordings, referencing the score and providing additional commentary and instruction, such as at Var. XVII: "? at Bar 5 could be just a wee shade less"; or "Var 20 ... Bar 8; look once again for another last beat, 9 as we know tends to rush"; or simply "Var XVIII Perf-" [Perfect]. Gould the pianist had lived closely with this piece of music for 25 years and was unlikely to need notes for playing—the present manuscript contains minute detail of his assembly of the recording.