Glenn Gould’s debut album of Bach’s Goldberg Variations was recorded in June 1955. The Columbia LP quickly became one of the most revered piano recordings ever made and Gould became the most famous classical artist of the day. His exciting, unorthodox new way of playing Bach left listeners awestruck and critics around the world hailing him as a genius. But until recently this iconic album was limited by the dated recording technology of its time.
On September 25, 2006, history was made again. Zenph Studios recorded its debut re-performance® to standing ovations in the CBC’s famed Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto. The date would have been Glenn Gould’s 74th birthday, and what a gift Zenph created to give his fans.
The Zenph re-performance is a revelation in its clarity, depth, and vibrancy. Gould seems to play at an almost inhuman speed and yet with complete accuracy. The 30 variations dazzle the listener with their inventiveness and variety. As music historian and Gould biographer Kevin Bazzana writes in the CD’s liner notes, "Here, albeit with his trademark vocalizing no longer accompanying the performance, Gould's musical personality is unquestionably present..."
The modern sound of the Zenph re-recording delivers the subtle shadings and nuance that Glenn Gould intended. Zenph engineers used a meticulously voiced Yamaha Disklavier Pro to approximate the sound of the Steinway Gould used in 1955.
This Zenph recording for Sony BMG Masterworks is an audiophile dream come true. Sony BMG has released the album as a "hybrid multichannel SACD" disc. This type of compact disc plays perfectly on any traditional CD player out today, but sounds magnificent on the newer Super Audio CD (SACD) players. (Richard King, renowned for his surround-sound expertise, used the latest Sonoma workstation for the DSD recording).
We also recorded a binaural version of the playing. In this technique, two microphones are positioned in the ears of a dummy head, so that headphone playback sounds quite immersive. You can hear what Gould heard as he sat at the piano bench, an amazing experience!
A distinguished team created the new audio master recordings of the Goldberg Variations in The Glenn Gould Studio:
Steve Epstein: producer for Sony BMG, has 11 Grammy awards and 27 Grammy nominations for his classical and jazz recordings. These include five Classical Producer of the Year Grammy awards.
Richard King: recording engineer and founder of RK Recording. He has long been associated with Sony Music Studios in New York. King has been the engineer with Yo-Yo Ma, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra and many revered classical pianists, such as Yefim Bronfman, Emanuel Ax, Murray Perahia, and Andre Previn. He has won seven Grammy Awards, including two for Best Engineered Album, Classical, and one Latin Grammy Award.
Peter Cook: CBC recording engineer, Audio Engineering Society (AES) Toronto Section executive and Vice-President elect (Eastern USA/Canada), and credits on numerous Juno Award-winning CDs. He has re-mastered early recordings of Gould for CBC Records, including the 1954 live broadcast of the Goldberg Variations.
Marc Wienert: piano voicer, brought his specialized skills in precisely adjusting piano acoustics. His task for this new recording is unique in history: coordinating one piano’s timbre to another’s from 50 years earlier, to invoke a gorgeous sound – yet one Gould would recognize.
Ron Giesbrecht: National Piano Service Manager for Yamaha Canada Music, was on hand to assure the Disklavier Pro mechanism worked flawlessly and silently through 48 hours of non-stop use.
Paul Gilchrist: Canadian piano tuner, trained by Verne Edquist, who was Gould’s long-time piano tuner for his recordings. Zenph was honored to have Edquist and tuner Ted Sambell on hand at the re-performance.
Bach & Friends doc
The Entertainment Gathering (EG) was the catalyst for a collaboration between Michael Lawrence Films and Zenph®. Michael Lawrence and Dr. John Q. Walker were both EG presenters, and they developed a strong friendship that resulted in Zenph hosting venues for several segments of Michael's extraordinary new film Bach & Friends. This documentary film explores how Bach's music influences lives in the 21st century. Bach & Friends is now released. Michael posted some of his initial edits in 4-minute segments on YouTube (but the final film is much better).
Computer game designer Sid Meier discusses the Zenph re-performance®. of Glenn Gould's 1955 Goldberg Variations with Drs. Anatoly Larkin and John Q. Walker. Master piano technician Marc Wienert is interviewed in the midst of voicing the Yamaha Disklavier Pro concert grand at Zenph. Web site for this film segment
The Audiophile Voice, October 2007
"I cannot over-recommend this recording." more>>
Stereophile, September 2007
"Recording of the Month" more>>
The Absolute Sound, August2007
"Music: 10, Sonics:10" more>>
Malcolm Lester, past managing director of the Glenn Gould Foundation
"We were tremendously impressed. As many times as I've heard the '55 Goldbergs, it was like hearing them for the first time."