In the mythology of Bach, several people figure as Mnemosyne types, serving to remind humanity, “Oh yes, that Bach chap, quite the composer.” Without them, so the legend goes, we might have forgotten entirely about Bach, or at least about such-and-such work by him. There is Felix Mendelssohn, whose rendition of St. Matthew’s Passion in 1825 “brought Bach back to life,” James Gaines writes in “Evening in the Palace of Reason.” There is Pablo Casals, the aforementioned cellist whose interpretation of Bach’s cello suites has scared off many another cellist from attempting them. And then there is the pianist Glenn Gould.
As with any mythology, it helps that Gould, who died in 1982, was unapologetically a character. Continue reading