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Liner notes, program notes, book reviews, interviews, lectures, radio-talks, essays, and articles: a generous selection of the late pianist's challenging, idiosyncratic critical writings. First, in roughly historical order, come over 40 pieces--many of them highly technical--on individual composers and compositions: quick praise for ""favorite composer"" Orlando Gibbons; rich analysis of Bach's ""Goldbergs,"" of course (their ""virile ego,"" with ""that curious hybrid of clement composure and cogent command""); the notorious, unconvincing scorn for late Mozart, much Beethoven, the first half of the 18th century, and that ""grotesque hybrid"" known as the Romantic piano concerto; a brief defense of the controversial Gould approach to Brahms' D-minor; and, at greater length, appreciations of two favorites among the moderns--Richard Strauss (above all, for ""the superbly filigreed texture of his inner voices"") and Schoenberg. A section on ""Performance"" then follows, featuring Gould's distaste for applause, for critics, for competitions (the emphasis on consensus and competence, resulting in ""spiritual lobotomy""); it also includes a vivid memoir of Leopold Stokowski (a soulmate in Gould's love of technology), a half-persuasive paean to Barbra Streisand, and the famous, totally unpersuasive one to Petula Clark and songwriter Tony Hatch (preferring them to the Beatles). The ""Media"" section, along with reflections of Gould's work in radio-collage and film-documentary, presents ""The Prospects of Recording,"" with vigorous arguments for Gould's splice-happy approach to perfection in recording--as well as his thoughts on the power of background music (in movies, in Musak). And a final, miscellaneous group ranges from musicology-parody to film-criticism to a personal view of Toronto. Stylish (if often a bit arch), erudite, and sometimes edgily intense: a worthwhile gathering--largely for pianists and scholars, but with occasional rewards for any musically sophisticated browser.

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 1984
Publisher: Knopf