Idiosyncratic as Glenn Gould was as a human being, his performance of Bach’s music comes as close to ‘authoritative’ as the term—with all its needed caveats—allows. I say this as a music lover and a music consumer, not as a music critic or even much of a musician. And I do so because amateurs like this one often wonder ‘which version (of a certain musical piece) to buy or stream’.
You will never go wrong purchasing a Glenn Gould performance of J.S. Bach.
This transference of Bach’s French Suites to the piano’s keyboard is performed with the lightest touch, the warmest panache. The lines of Bach’s complex polyphony—whether quick as a dragonfly or stately as a swan—come across almost as the texture and pace of a living being. Nothing is forced, nothing gets in the way. Gould’s notorious nonverbal at the keyboard, bane of his recording engineers, are undetectable. The music simply flows.
Slow down and listen to Gould’s left hand interacting, intertwining, conversing with his right. This is Bach performed, well, authoritatively. If you want Bach’s French Suites or at a more superficial level (like the one at which this music consumer listens), just his exquisite Baroque polyphony performed on the piano, you can do no better than imaging, scrawled in Johann Sebastian’s own hand across the front of this recording: ‘Start here.’