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The Balanced Pursuit: Glenn Gould's Approach to Reading and Practicing Music Scores

Glenn Gould at the Piano
The Balanced Pursuit

Glenn Gould, the legendary Canadian pianist renowned for his extraordinary interpretations of Bach's keyboard works, was known for his meticulous and unique approach to practicing and performing. One aspect that set Gould apart was his division of time between reading music scores and practicing. In this article, we explore the reasons behind Gould's decision to spend half his time reading music scores and the other half practicing, shedding light on the benefits and insights gained from this balanced approach.

Immersion into the Composer's Mind

For Gould, reading music scores was not a mere formality but a means to deeply understand the composer's intentions and interpretive choices. By immersing himself in the score, he sought to grasp the underlying structure, harmonic progressions, and melodic motifs. This immersion allowed him to develop a profound connection with the composer's musical language and philosophies, enabling him to bring their works to life with authenticity and depth.

Unearthing Musical Nuances

Gould's passion for reading music scores stemmed from his desire to uncover the intricate details and subtle nuances embedded within the compositions. By carefully studying the score, he could identify hidden contrapuntal lines, harmonic progressions, and structural relationships that might not be immediately apparent from a surface-level examination. This meticulous exploration provided him with a comprehensive understanding of the piece, which he could then translate into his performances.

Shaping Personal Interpretation

Reading music scores enabled Gould to develop a personal interpretation of each composition. By studying the composer's markings, dynamics, and articulations, he gained insight into their intended expression and stylistic choices. Gould would then merge his understanding of the score with his artistic sensibilities, allowing him to shape and refine his unique interpretation. This approach gave his performances a distinct character that resonated deeply with audiences and set him apart as an artist.

Mental Rehearsal and Visualization

Gould recognized the power of mental rehearsal in enhancing his practice sessions. By studying the score before practicing, he would mentally visualize the piece, imagining himself playing each note and phrase. This mental preparation allowed him to anticipate challenges, plan fingerings, and develop a clear musical roadmap. Consequently, when he sat down at the piano, he could approach the practice session with greater clarity, focus, and purpose.

Efficient and Targeted Practice

Dividing his time between reading scores and practicing allowed Gould to approach his practice sessions with a clear plan and purpose. By immersing himself in the score beforehand, he could identify the passages that required more attention, technical challenges that needed addressing, and interpretive choices he wished to explore further. This targeted approach to practice maximized his efficiency and effectiveness, ensuring that each practice session was purposeful and yielded significant progress.

Nurturing a Lifelong Love for Music

Gould's dedication to reading music scores was driven by his intense passion for music. By delving into the scores, he nourished his curiosity, deepened his understanding, and cultivated a lifelong love for the art form. Gould saw the score as a gateway to the composer's world, and through this exploration, he developed an enduring connection with the music that fueled his commitment to excellence.

Glenn Gould's decision to spend half his time reading music scores and half his time practicing was rooted in his pursuit of deep musical understanding and personal interpretation. By immersing himself in the score, he gained insights into the composer's intentions, unearthed subtle nuances, and developed a comprehensive understanding of the piece. This approach allowed him to approach practice sessions with purpose and efficiency, maximizing progress. Moreover, Gould's passion for reading scores nurtured his lifelong love for music, fueling his commitment to artistic excellence. As aspiring musicians, we can learn from Gould's balanced approach, recognizing the value of studying scores as a pathway to profound musical interpretation and personal growth.



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