Glenn Gould, one of history's greatest and most fiercely individual musicians, would have been 80 years old on Tuesday. To celebrate we've programmed an entire hour's worth of solid Gould, and, the rest of the week, profile four other titans of the contemporary piano world.
Andras Schiff said once that Glenn Gould controlled five voices better than most pianists controlled one. True statement. His contrapuntal mastery is on full display in two Preludes and Fugues of Johann Sebastian Bach, perhaps his most famous recording, including the so-called "twelve-tone fugue" in B minor from Book One of the Well-Tempered Clavier. Also on the docket we have rarer recordings of Brahms, Berg and Krenek, and — since it was Gould's self-proclaimed favorite composer — Richard Strauss,in an arrangement from a movement of his Four Last Songs.
The rest of the week we stick with the Pianist Profile theme and focus on four pianists on days not Tuesday. Each pianist offers playing of such extreme prodigiousness, musical interest and uniqueness that one could devote an entire week to their playing and only scratch the surface. But as is, each day is an hourlong discographic distillation of the utmost quality.
Monday we have Peter Serkin (in works by Toru Takemitsu, Mozart, Charles Wuorinen and others), Wednesday there's Nicolas Hodges (featuring inhumanly awesome performances of Michael Finnissy, John Adams and Harrison Birtwistle), Thursday — oh doozy — is Paul Crossly (in his wheelhouse repertoire of Olivier Messiaen, Francois Poulenc and others), and finally, on Friday, the outstanding Swedish pianist Frederic Ullen (in monster performances of Ligeti and George Flynn).
Who makes your top five contemporary-repertoire-playing pianists?