Pianist Dan Tepfer was at Gallery 345 on September 14 – as were about 60 musical cognoscenti, who came out to hear Bach’s Goldberg Variations. And perhaps there was someone else present, at least in spirit.

If Glenn Gould were looking down on the event he’d have immediately recognized his own stage mannerisms: Tepfer likes to hum along while leaning precariously into the keyboard. But Gould’s ghost would have been surprised by Tepfer’s take on the Goldbergs. At 27, this French-born American is both a classical and jazz musician – and his performance was a mixture of movements played “straight” and his own improvised interpretations.

It was brave of Tepfer bring his unique approach to the Goldbergs to Gould’s home-town. And while he’s no Gould – his playing is more heavy-handed and less nuanced – he has clearly been influenced by the late great pianist’s crisp and taut approach to Bach.

But it was Tepfer’s formidable improvisation skills that made his performance remarkable. Although his own harmonic style is dissonant and angular, he preserved Bach’s linear textures. The result was an inventive and original style of “baroque modernism.”

Would Gould’s ghost have been impressed? I don’t know – but I was.

By the way, until a few days ago I’d never been to Gallery 345, which is tucked away in an old warehouse building on Sorauren Avenue (in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood). Its asymmetrical “L” shape makes it an unusual venue for music – however, its intimate size and good acoustics make it a cozy place to hear piano and chamber performances.


Colin Eatock, Managing Editor

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