The Goldberg Variations were a piece of work by Johann Sebastian Bach, published in 1741.
The piece consists of an Aria and 30 variations. Well what is an Aria? some may ask, I know I did. Aria is an Italian word meaning air, in music it means melody or describe a self contained piece for one voice, usually part of a larger work.
Bach had written them for a Count who suffered from insomnia and had requested him to write something to soothe him and help him sleep. The Count’s performer’s name was Johann Gottlieb Goldberg and may be the original performer for the piece.
In 1955 a man named Glenn Gould recorded the Goldberg Variations at Columbia Records and seemed to blow up instantaneously. He later recorded them again in 1981.
Glenn Gould was perhaps the greatest pianist of the 20th century and arguably still is to this date although he passed in 1982. His interpretations of the Goldberg Variations are unmatched in my opinion and both versions, the 1955 recording and the 1981 recording, are unparalleled and also drastically different from each other.
The 1955 version is much faster and he seems to play with more confidence, to me it feels like he is ready to take on the world. His touch is almost aggressive, even when he is playing softer it feels aggressive.
The 1981 version of the Aria has a somber almost jaded feel. Throughout the performance I get the impression that he is sad and burnt out. Aside from that this performance had more feeling behind it and the accents are more noticeable and the dynamics or more spaced out, the soft parts are softer than in the other version.