Glen Gould claims Orlando Gibbons as favourite composer
The great Canadian 20th Century pianist Glen Gould claimed that Orlando Gibbons was his favourite composer.
Many find it hard to accept that he would put Gibbons above Bach whom he so clearly loved. But let’s look at some of the reasons he may have made that choice.
First – to really understand Gibbons keyboard works it pays to listen to them straight through. Not something that can be done with Bach as there is simply too much of it to digest in one sitting. But Gibbons leaves us 45 delicious pieces with a combined listening time of around an hour and a half.
It is in this listening – that the scale and scope of Gibbons work can be most easily fathomed.
Secondly, how is he viewed by those who play his work: Piano legend Glenn Gould, who championed Gibbons’s music, stated that Orlando Gibbons was his favorite composer. Talking about Gibbon’s hymns and anthems Gould said: “ever since my teen-age years this music … has moved me more deeply than any other sound experience I can think of.”
He even had the audacity to compare Gibbons to the mighty composers Beethoven and Webern:
“…despite the requisite quota of scales and shakes in such half-hearted virtuoso vehicles as the Salisbury Galliard, one is never quite able to counter the impression of music of supreme beauty that lacks its ideal means of reproduction. Like Beethoven in his last quartets, or Webern at almost any time, Gibbons is an artist of such intractable commitment that, in the keyboard field, at least, his works work better in one’s memory, or on paper, than they ever can through the intercession of a sounding-board.”