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Glenn Gould: Bach's Goldberg Variations

Glenn Gould's debut album of Bach's Goldberg Variations was recorded in June 1955. It is one of the best known classical piano recordings ever, and it has been in continuous print for fifty years.

But, it was locked forever in monaural sound.

Until now.

Zenph Studios recorded its debut re-performance to standing ovations in the CBC's famed Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto on September 25, 2006, which would have been Glenn Gould's 74th birthday.

Two things happened that day: 1) we taped a radio program for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) before a live audience, and 2) we recorded our history-making new album with Sony BMG Masterworks.

The producer of the CBC radio documentary was Eitan Cornfield, respected for his high-quality radio documentaries. We were introduced to Eitan by Lorne Tulk, Gould's longtime friend and producer. The concert was broadcast throughout Canada by CBC Radio Two that evening. It was also streamed on the Internet.

Andrew Craig, the CBC Radio Two host, helped the audience to fully imagine the unimaginable: Glenn Gould, alive and performing as he did in 1955 at the recording studio. The effect on the live studio audience, a critical group that included Gould's past producer, his piano tuners, and the executives of the Glenn Gould Foundation, was visceral. At the close of the Goldberg Variations, there was a brief moment of silence, followed by resounding applause.

A distinguished team went on to create new audio master recordings of the Goldberg Variations in 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.

      Click here to read an exclusive interview with Marc Wienert about his work on this project.

    * 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.

Yamaha Artist Services supplied a nine-foot Disklavier Pro, a superb concert grand outfitted with uniquely-engineered computer hardware. After artfully assessing the character of the piano used in the original 1955 recording, Marc Wienert accurately voiced the instrument.

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!

Both the binaural and the surround-sound versions are on this hybrid SACD/CD. These multiple new recordings show the ability to take a re-performance and hear it from different perspectives.