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Statue of Glenn Gould, Toronto.
Glenn Gould
Born September 25, 1932
Died October 4, 1982
Occupation Canadian composer and pianist

Glenn Herbert Gould[a][b] (September 25, 1932 – October 4, 1982) was a Canadian pianist who became one of the best-known and most celebrated classical pianists of the twentieth century. He was particularly renowned as an interpreter of the keyboard music of Johann Sebastian Bach. His playing was distinguished by a remarkable technical proficiency and a capacity to articulate the polyphonic texture of Bach’s music.

Gould rejected most of the standard Romantic piano literature and shunned the performance of several of its composers such as Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann, and Frédéric Chopin. Although his recordings were dominated by Bach, Gould's oeuvre was diverse, including works by Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Brahms, pre-Baroque composers, and twentieth-century atonal composers such as Arnold Schoenberg. Gould was also well-known for various eccentricities, ranging from his unorthodox musical interpretations and mannerisms at the keyboard, to aspects of his lifestyle and personal behavior. He abandoned the concert platform at the age of 31 to concentrate on studio recording and other projects.

Gould was also known as a writer, composer, conductor, and broadcaster. He was a prolific contributor to musical journals, in which he discussed musical theory and outlined his musical philosophy. His career as a composer was less distinguished; his output was minimal and many projects were left unfinished. There is evidence that, if he had lived beyond the age of fifty, he intended to abandon the piano, and devote the remainder of his career to conducting and other projects. As a broadcaster, Gould was prolific. His output ranged from television and radio broadcasts of studio performances to non-musical radio documentaries about life in the Canadian wilderness.

Contents

Life

Gould in February 1946 with his dog, Nick

Glenn Herbert Gould[a][b] was born at home in Toronto on September 25, 1932, to Russell Herbert ("Bert") Gold and Florence ("Flora") Emma Gold (née Greig),[1] Presbyterians of Scottish and English ancestry. His maternal grandfather was a cousin of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.[2] The family's surname was changed to Gould informally around 1939 in order to avoid being mistaken as Jewish, because of a series of reasons centering on the prevailing anti-Semitism of prewar Toronto and the Gold surname's Jewish association.[c] Gould had no Jewish ancestry,[d] though he sometimes made jokes on the subject, e.g., "When people ask me if I'm Jewish, I always tell them that I was Jewish during the war."[3]

Gould's interest in music and his talent as a pianist became evident very early on. He had perfect pitch and could read music before he could read words.[4] His father, Bert Gould, reported that at a young age, Glenn behaved differently from typical children at the piano: he would strike single notes and listen to their long decay.[4] Both his parents were musical, and his mother, especially, encouraged the infant Gould's early musical development. His interest in the piano proceeded side by side with an interest in composition; he would play his own little pieces for family, friends, and sometimes large gatherings. For example, in 1938, in the company of his mother, Gould attended the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church (a few blocks from the Gould house) and performed one of his own compositions.[5] When he was six, Glenn was taken for the first time to hear a live musical performance by a celebrated soloist; this had a tremendous effect on him. He later described the experience:

It was Hofmann. It was, I think, his last performance in Toronto, and it was a staggering impression. The only thing I can really remember is that, when I was being brought home in a car, I was in that wonderful state of half-awakeness in which you hear all sorts of incredible sounds going through your mind. They were all orchestral sounds, but I was playing them all, and suddenly I was Hofmann. I was enchanted.[6]

Gould's first piano teacher was his mother until he reached the age of ten. Then, he began attending the The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, where he studied piano with Alberto Guerrero, organ with Frederick C. Silvester, and music theory with Leo Smith. Gould passed his final Conservatory examination in piano at the age of twelve (achieving the 'highest marks of any candidate'), thus attaining 'professional standing as a pianist' at that age.[7] One year later he passed the written theory exams, qualifying for the ATCM diploma (Associate, Toronto Conservatory of Music).[7]

In 1945, he gave his first public performance, playing the organ,[8] and the following year, he made his first appearance with an orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, in a performance of the first movement of Beethoven's 4th piano concerto.[9] His first solo recital followed in 1947,[10] and his first recital on radio was with the CBC in 1950.[11] This was the beginning of his long association with radio and recording.

In 1957 Gould embarked on a tour of the Soviet Union, becoming the first North American to play there since World War II.[12] His concerts featured Bach, Beethoven, and the serial music of Schoenberg and Berg, which had been suppressed in the Soviet Union during the era of Socialist Realism. Gould made his Boston debut in 1958, playing for the Peabody Mason Concert Series.[13] One audience member was so moved that she wrote a letter to the Editor of the Boston Herald commenting, "If I never hear Bach's Goldberg Variations again, I feel with all my heart that I have heard the ultimate, and am grateful".[14]

On April 10, 1964, Gould gave his last public performance, playing in Los Angeles, at the Wilshire Ebell Theater.[15] Among the pieces he performed that night were Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 30, selections from Bach's The Art of Fugue, and the Piano Sonata No. 3, by Paul Hindemith.[e] Gould performed fewer than two hundred concerts over the course of his career, of which fewer than forty were overseas. For pianists such as Van Cliburn, two hundred concerts would have amounted to about two year's touring.[16] For the rest of his life, Gould eschewed live performance, focusing instead on recording, writing, and broadcasting. Towards the end of his life, he began conducting; he had earlier directed Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 and cantata Widerstehe doch der Sünde, BWV 77 from the harpsipiano (a piano with metal hammers to simulate a harpsichord's sound) in the 1960s. His last recording was as a conductor, conducting Wagner's Siegfried Idyll in its original chamber music scoring. He had intended to give up the piano at the age of 50, spending later years conducting, writing about music, and composing.[17]

Gould suffered many pains and ailments, though he was something of a hypochondriac,[f] and his autopsy revealed few underlying problems in areas that often troubled him.[g]

He suffered a stroke on 27 September 1982, which paralyzed the left side of his body. He was admitted to the hospital, and his condition rapidly deteriorated. He was taken off life support on October 4.[18] He is buried in Toronto's Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

Gould as a pianist

Glenn Gould with his teacher, Alberto Guerrero, demonstrating Guerrero's technical idea that Gould should pull down at keys instead of striking them from above. The photo was taken in 1945 before Gould fully developed this technique.

Gould was known for his vivid musical imagination, and listeners regarded his interpretations as ranging from brilliantly creative to, on occasion, outright eccentric. His piano playing had great clarity, particularly in contrapuntal passages, and extraordinary control. He was considered a child prodigy, and in adulthood was also described as a musical phenomenon. As he played, he often swayed his torso, almost always in a clockwise motion.[19] His playing of Bach was also distinguished by an unusual placement of accents, sometimes just before a down-beat.[20]

When Gould was around ten years old, he injured his back as a result of a fall from a boat ramp on the shore of Lake Simcoe.[21] This incident is almost certainly not related to his father's subsequent construction for him of an adjustable-height chair, which he used for the rest of his life. This famous chair was designed so that Gould could sit very low at the keyboard with the object of pulling down on the keys rather than striking them from above—a central technical idea of his teacher, Alberto Guerrero.[22] Gould's mother urged the young Gould to sit up straight at the keyboard.[23]

Gould developed a formidable technique. It enabled him to choose very fast tempos while retaining the separateness and clarity of each note. His extremely low position at the instrument, arguably, permitted more control over the keyboard. Gould showed considerable technical skill in performing and recording a wide repertoire including virtuosic and romantic works, such as his own arrangement of Ravel's La Valse and Liszt's transcriptions of Beethoven's fifth and sixth symphonies. Gould worked from a young age with his teacher Alberto Guerrero on a technique known as finger-tapping, a method of training the fingers to act more independently from the arm.[24]

Gould claimed he almost never practiced on the piano, preferring to study music by reading it rather than playing it, a technique he had also learned from Guerrero. His manual practicing focussed on articulation, rather than basic facility. He may have spoken ironically about his practicing, but there is evidence that on occasion, he did practice quite hard, sometimes using his own drills and techniques.[25]

He stated that he didn't understand the requirement of other pianists to continuously reinforce their relationship with the instrument by practicing many hours a day.[26] It seems that Gould was able to practice mentally without access to an instrument, and even took this so far as to prepare for a recording of Brahms piano works without ever playing them until a few weeks before the recording sessions. This is all the more staggering considering the absolute accuracy and phenomenal dexterity exhibited in his playing. Gould's large repertoire also demonstrated this natural mnemonic gift.

The piano, Gould said, "is not an instrument for which I have any great love as such... [but] I have played it all my life, and it is the best vehicle I have to express my ideas." In the case of Bach, Gould admitted, "[I] fixed the action in some of the instruments I play on—and the piano I use for all recordings is now so fixed—so that it is a shallower and more responsive action than the standard. It tends to have a mechanism which is rather like an automobile without power steering: you are in control and not it; it doesn't drive you, you drive it. This is the secret of doing Bach on the piano at all. You must have that immediacy of response, that control over fine definitions of things."[27]

Of significant influence upon the teenage Gould were Artur Schnabel (Gould: "The piano was a means to an end for him, and the end was to approach Beethoven."); Rosalyn Tureck's recordings of Bach ("upright, with a sense of repose and positiveness"); and Leopold Stokowski.[28]

Gould had a pronounced aversion to what he termed a "hedonistic" approach to the piano repertoire, performance, and music generally. For Gould, "hedonism" in this sense denoted a superficial theatricality, something to which he felt Mozart, for example, became increasingly susceptible later in his career.[29] He associated this drift towards hedonism with the emergence of a cult of showmanship and gratuitous virtuosity on the concert platform in the nineteenth century and later. The institution of the public concert, he felt, degenerated into the "blood sport" with which he struggled, and which he ultimately rejected.[30]

Recordings

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In creating music, Gould much preferred the control and intimacy provided by the recording studio; he disliked the concert hall, which he compared to a competitive sporting arena. After his final public performance in 1964, he devoted his career solely to the studio, recording albums and several radio documentaries. He was attracted to the technical aspects of recording, and considered the manipulation of tape to be another part of the creative process. Although Gould's recording studio producers have testified that 'he needed splicing, [or overdubbing] less than most performers',[31] Gould used the process to give him total artistic control over the recording process. He recounted his recording of the A minor fugue from Book I of the Well-Tempered Clavier and how it was spliced together from two takes, with the fugue's expositions from one take and its episodes from another.[32]

Gould's first major recording, The Goldberg Variations, came in 1955, at Columbia Masterworks' 30th Street Studios in New York City. Although there was initially some controversy at CBS as to whether this was the most appropriate piece to record, the finished product received phenomenal praise and was among the best-selling classical music albums of its time.[33] Gould became closely associated with the piece, playing it in full or in part at many of his recitals. Another version of the Goldberg Variations, recorded in 1981, would be among his last recordings, and one of only a few pieces he recorded twice in the studio. The 1981 recording was one of CBS Masterworks' first digital recordings. The two recordings are very different: the first, highly energetic and often frenetic; the second, slower and more introspective. In the latter, Gould treats the Aria and its thirty variations as one cohesive piece. There are also two other recordings of the Goldberg Variations. One is a live recording from 1954 (CBC PSCD2007); the other is a live recording from Salzburg in 1959 (Sony SRCR-9500).

Gould recorded most of Bach's other keyboard works, including the complete Well-Tempered Clavier, Partitas, French Suites, English Suites, and keyboard concertos. For his only recording at the organ, he recorded about half of The Art of Fugue. He also recorded all five of Beethoven's piano concertos and 23 of the 32 piano sonatas.

Gould also recorded works by Beethoven, Brahms, and many other prominent piano composers, though he was outspoken in his criticism of some of them. He was extremely critical of Frederic Chopin. In a radio interview, when asked if he didn't find himself wanting to play Chopin, he replied: "No, I don't. I play it in a weak moment — maybe once a year or twice a year for myself. But it doesn't convince me." Although Gould recorded all of Mozart's sonatas and admitted enjoying the "actual playing" of them,[34] he was a harsh critic of Mozart's music to the extent of arguing (perhaps a little puckishly) that Mozart died too late rather than too early.[35] He was fond of many lesser-known composers, such as Orlando Gibbons, whose Anthems he had heard as a teenager,[36] and for whose music he felt a 'spiritual attachment'.[37] He recorded a number of Gibbons's keyboard works and nominated him as his all-time favourite composer,[38] despite his better-known admiration for the technical mastery of Bach.[39] He made recordings of piano music little-known in North America, including music by Jean Sibelius (the sonatines, Kyllikki); Georges Bizet (the Variations Chromatiques de Concert and the Premier nocturne); Richard Strauss (the piano sonata, the five pieces, Enoch Arden); and Paul Hindemith (the three sonatas, the sonatas for brass and piano). He also made recordings of the complete piano works and Lieder of Arnold Schoenberg.

One of Gould's performances of the Prelude and Fugue in C Major from Book Two of The Well-Tempered Clavier was chosen for inclusion on the NASA Voyager Golden Record by a committee headed by Carl Sagan. The disc of recordings was placed on the spacecraft Voyager 1, which is now approaching interstellar space and is the farthest human-made object from Earth.[40]

Collaborations

The success of Gould's collaborations with other artists was to a degree dependent upon their receptiveness to his sometimes unconventional readings of the music. His television collaboration with Yehudi Menuhin in 1965, recording works by Bach, Beethoven and Schoenberg,[41] was deemed a success because "Menuhin was ready to embrace the new perspective opened up by an unorthodox view."[41] In 1966, his collaboration with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, however, recording Richard Strauss's Ophelia Lieder, op. 67, was deemed an "outright fiasco".[41] Schwarzkopf believed in "total fidelity" to the score, but she also objected to the thermal conditions in the recording studio: "The studio was incredibly overheated, which may be good for a pianist but not for a singer: a dry throat is the end as far as singing is concerned. But we persevered nonetheless. It wasn't easy for me. Gould began by improvising something Straussian—we thought he was simply warming up, but no, he continued to play like that throughout the actual recordings, as though Strauss's notes were just a pretext that allowed him to improvise freely...".[42]

Radio documentaries

Less well-known is Gould's work in radio. This work was, in part, the result of Gould's long association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for which he produced numerous television and radio programs. Notable recordings include his Solitude Trilogy, consisting of The Idea of North, a meditation on Northern Canada and its people; The Latecomers, about Newfoundland; and The Quiet in the Land, on Mennonites in Manitoba. All three use a technique that Gould called "contrapuntal radio", in which several people are heard speaking at once—much like the voices in a fugue.

Rediscovered footage of a live performance

In 2002, during preparations for Queen Elizabeth II's Jubilee Tour of Canada, previously lost footage of a Glenn Gould performance was discovered. It was part of a CBC program of various musical performances that had followed the Queen's 1957 television address to Canadians from Rideau Hall, and featured a seven-minute live performance in which he plays the second and third movements of Bach's Keyboard Concerto in F Minor.[43]

Compositions

As a teenager, Gould wrote chamber music and piano works in the style of the Second Viennese school of composition. His only significant work was the String Quartet, Op. 1, which he finished when he was in his 20s, and perhaps his cadenzas to Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1, which can be heard on his recording of the piece and have recently been recorded by the German pianist Lars Vogt.

Early works:

  • 5 little pieces (Piano)
  • 2 pieces (Piano)
  • Sonata for Piano (unfinished)
  • Sonata for Bassoon and Piano

Slightly later works:

The majority of his work is published by Schott Music. The recording Glenn Gould: The Composer contains his original works excepting the cadenzas.

Not only a composer, Gould was a prolific arranger of orchestral repertoire for piano. His arrangements include his Wagner and Ravel transcriptions that he recorded, as well as the operas of Richard Strauss and the symphonies of Schubert and Bruckner, which he played privately for his own pleasure.[44]

Critical response

Gould's String Quartet Op. 1 (published in 1956 and recorded in 1960) had a mixed reception from the critics. For example, the notices from the Christian Science Monitor and The Saturday Review were quite laudatory, while the response from the Montreal Star was less so.[45] There is not an extensive critical commentary on Gould's compositional work for the simple reason that there is not much of it: he never proceeded beyond Opus 1. Although the String Quartet was not Gould's last published composition, there was never an Opus 2. Gould left a lot of compositions unfinished.[46] Ultimately Gould failed in his ambition to become a composer because, as he admitted himself, he lacked a 'personal voice'.[47]

Eccentricities

A replica of Glenn Gould's chair.

Glenn Gould usually hummed while he played, and his recording engineers had mixed results in how successfully they were able to exclude his voice from recordings. Gould claimed that his singing was subconscious and increased proportionately with the inability of the piano in question to realize the music as he intended. It is likely that this habit originated in Gould's having been taught by his mother to "sing everything that he played", as Kevin Bazzana puts it. This became "an unbreakable (and notorious) habit".[48] Some of Gould's recordings were severely criticised because of the background "vocalise". For example, a reviewer of his 1981 re-recording of the Goldberg Variations opined that many listeners would "find the groans and croons intolerable".[49] A similar habit is often exhibited by jazz pianists Thelonious Monk, Erroll Garner and even, in a somewhat less obtrusive way, Oscar Peterson.

Gould was renowned for his peculiar body movements while playing (circular swaying; conducting; or grasping at the air as if to reach for notes, as he did in the taping of Beethoven's Tempest Sonata) and for his insistence on absolute control over every aspect of his playing environment. The temperature of the recording studio had to be exactly regulated. He invariably insisted that it be extremely warm. According to Friedrich, the air conditioning engineer had to work just as hard as the recording engineers.[50] The piano had to be set at a certain height and would be raised on wooden blocks if necessary.[51] A small rug would sometimes be required for his feet underneath the piano.[52] He had to sit fourteen inches above the floor and would only play concerts while sitting on the old chair his father had made. He continued to use this chair even when the seat was completely worn through.[53] His chair is so closely identified with him that it is shown in a place of honor in a glass case at the National Library of Canada.

Conductors responded diversely to Gould and his playing habits. George Szell, who led Gould in 1957 with the Cleveland Orchestra, remarked to his assistant, "That nut's a genius."[54] Leonard Bernstein said, "There is nobody quite like him, and I just love playing with him."[54] Ironically, Bernstein created a stir in April 1962 when, just before the New York Philharmonic was to perform the Brahms D minor piano concerto with Gould as soloist, he informed the audience that he was assuming no responsibility for what they were about to hear. Specifically, he was referring to Gould's insistence that the entire first movement be played at half the indicated tempo. Plans for a studio recording of the performance came to nothing; the live radio broadcast (along with Bernstein's disclaimer) was subsequently released on CD.

Gould was averse to cold, and wore heavy clothing (including gloves), even in warm places. He was once arrested, presumably mistaken for a vagrant, while sitting on a park bench in Sarasota, Florida, dressed in his standard all-climate attire of coat(s), warm hat, and mittens.[55] He also disliked social functions. He hated being touched, and in later life he limited personal contact, relying on the telephone and letters for communication. Upon one visit to historic Steinway Hall in New York City in 1959, the chief piano technician at the time, William Hupfer, greeted Gould by giving him a slap on the back. Gould was shocked by this, and complained of aching, lack of coordination, and fatigue because of the incident; he even went on to explore the possibility of litigation against Steinway & Sons if his apparent injuries were permanent.[56] He was known for cancelling performances at the last minute, which is why Bernstein's above-mentioned public disclaimer opens with, "Don't be frightened, Mr. Gould is here; will appear in a moment."

In his liner notes and broadcasts, Gould created more than two dozen alter egos for satirical, humorous, or didactic purposes, permitting him to write hostile reviews or incomprehensible commentaries on his own performances. Probably the best-known are the German musicologist "Karlheinz Klopweisser", the English conductor "Sir Nigel Twitt-Thornwaite", and the American critic "Theodore Slutz".[57]

Fran's Restaurant was a constant haunt of Gould's. A CBC profile noted, "sometime between two and three every morning, Gould would go to Fran's, a 24-hour diner a block away from his Toronto apartment, sit in the same booth, and order the same meal of scrambled eggs."[58] (The location in question is no longer in operation.)

Philosophical and aesthetic views

Gould stated that if he had not been a musician, he would have been a writer. He wrote music criticism and expounded his philosophy of music and art. In these he rejected what he deemed banal in music composition and its consumption by the public, and also gave insightful analyses of the music of Richard Strauss, Alban Berg and Anton Webern. Despite certain modernist sympathies, Gould's attitude to popular music was ambivalent or negative. He enjoyed a jazz concert with his friends as a youth, mentioned jazz in his writings, and once criticized The Beatles for "bad voice leading".[59] He did, however, share a mutual admiration with jazz pianist Bill Evans, who made his seminal record "Conversations with Myself" using Gould's celebrated Steinway CD 318 piano. He believed that the keyboard is fulfilled as an instrument primarily through counterpoint, a musical style that reached its zenith during the Baroque era. Much of the homophony that followed, he felt, belongs to a less serious and less spiritual period of art.

Gould was convinced that the institution of the public concert with audience en masse and the tradition of applause was not only an anachronism, but also a "force of evil," and that these practices should be abandoned. This doctrine he set forth, only half in jest, in "GPAADAK", the Gould Plan for the Abolition of Applause and Demonstrations of All Kinds.[60]

Gould enjoyed solitude, and expressed that theme in his trio of radio documentaries, the Solitude Trilogy.

Having entertained a lifelong fascination with the hereafter, with theories of reincarnation and mystic numerology akin to those of Arnold Schoenberg, Gould believed that he would be reincarnated two years after his death in the person of Sam Caldwell, a media theorist and contrapuntal poet. This belief was strengthened by Gould's regrets (expressed particularly in his 1980 interviews with Bruno Monsaigneon) that he had not brought his contrapuntal radio work to a satisfactory stage of completion. With plans to explore to its logical conclusion the application of Wagnerian leitmotifs and J.S. Bach's contrapuntal textures in the medium of the spoken word, and particularly in poetry, Gould conceived of this fictional "second go-around" toward the end of his already immensely productive lifetime.

Health

Early in his life, Gould suffered a spine injury, which prompted his physicians to prescribe an assortment of painkillers and other drugs for him. Some speculate that his continued use of prescription medications throughout his career had a deleterious effect on his health. He was highly concerned about his health throughout his life, worrying about everything from high blood pressure to the safety of his hands. It is often claimed that Gould never shook hands with anyone and always wore gloves;[61] however, there are documented cases of Gould shaking hands.[62]

Relationships

Gould lived a private life: Bruno Monsaingeon said of him, "No supreme pianist has ever given of his heart and mind so overwhelmingly while showing himself so sparingly." [63]

In 2007, Cornelia Foss, wife of composer and conductor Lukas Foss, publicly claimed in an article in the Toronto Star (August 25, 2007) that she and Gould had had a love affair lasting several years. She and her husband had met Gould in Los Angeles in 1956. Cornelia was an art instructor who had studied sculpture at the American Academy in Rome; Lukas was a pianist and composer who conducted both the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Brooklyn Philharmonic.

After several years, Glenn and Cornelia became lovers.[64] Cornelia left Lukas in 1967 for Gould, taking her two children with her to Toronto, where she purchased a house near Gould's apartment, at 110 St. Clair Avenue West. According to Cornelia, "There were a lot of misconceptions about Glenn, and it was partly because he was so very private. But I assure you, he was an extremely heterosexual man. Our relationship was, among other things, quite sexual." Their affair lasted until 1972, when she returned to Lukas. As early as two weeks after leaving her husband, she had noticed disturbing signs in Gould. She describes a serious paranoid episode:

"It lasted several hours, and then I knew he was not just neurotic—there was more to it. I thought to myself, 'Good grief, am I going to bring up my children in this environment?' But I stayed four and a half years." Foss did not discuss details, but others close to Gould said he was convinced someone was trying to poison him and that others were spying on him.[65]

Awards and recognitions

Glenn Gould received many honors before and after his death, although he personally claimed to despise competition in music. In 1983, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

Gould won four Grammy Awards:

See also

Notes

  • a. ^  Bazzana states, "Gould's first name is frequently misspelled as "Glen" in documents (including official ones) dating back to the beginning of his life, and Gould himself used both spellings interchangeably throughout his life."[67] Bazzana further investigated the name-change records in Ontario's Office of the Registrar General and found only a record of his father Bert's name-change to Gould in 1979 (to be able to legally marry with that name); he concludes that the family's name-change was informal and "Gould was still legally 'Glenn Herbert Gold' when he died."[3]
  • b. ^  According to Bazzana, "[Gould's] birth certificate gave his name as 'Gold, Glenn Herbert.' The family name had always been Gold [...] All of the documents through 1938 that survive among Gould's papers give his surname as 'Gold,' but beginning at least as early as June 1939, the family name was almost always printed 'Gould' in newspapers, programs, and other sources; the last confirmed publication of 'Gold' is in the program for a church supper and concert on October 27, 1940. The whole family adopted the new surname."[3]
  • c. ^  Full circumstances of the name-change can be found in Bazzana (2003), pp. 24–26.
  • d. ^  According to Bazzana, "At least as far back as the mid-eighteenth century, there were no Jews in this particular Gold lineage."[67]
  • e. ^  Friedrich first states that Gould performed the Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 30 (Opus 109)[68] but later states that he performed the Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 31 (Opus 110).[69] Bazzana cites the Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 30 (Opus 109)[15]
  • f. ^  In a heading, Bazzana quotes Gould as saying, "They say I'm a hypochondriac, and, of course, I am."[70]
  • g. ^  Ostwald specifies "No physical abnormalities were found in the kidneys, prostate, bones, joints, muscles, or other parts of the body that Glenn so often had complained about."[71]

References

  1. ^ Bazzana (2003), p. 21
  2. ^ Bazzana (2003), p. 30
  3. ^ a b c Bazzana (2003), p. 24
  4. ^ a b Friedrich (1990), p. 15
  5. ^ Ostwald (1997), p. 48
  6. ^ Payzant (1978), p. 2
  7. ^ a b Bazzana (2003), p. 76
  8. ^ Friedrich (1990), p.32
  9. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 35
  10. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 36
  11. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 38
  12. ^ Bazzana (2003), p. 163
  13. ^ Boston Globe, 22-Mar-1958, Kevin Kelly, "Glenn Gould at Jordan Hall"
  14. ^ Boston Herald, 23-Mar-1958, "Letter to the Editor"
  15. ^ a b Bazzana (2003), p. 229
  16. ^ Bazzana (2003), pp. 232-233
  17. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 315
  18. ^ Ostwald (1997), pp. 325–328
  19. ^ He did this in music of medium to very slow tempo. The clockwise motion is associated with left-handedness (Theodore H. Blau, The torque test: A measurement of cerebral dominance. 1974, American Psychological Association) and rather than mental abnormality suggests a musical function.
  20. ^ This is evident in his recording of the D major prelude from Book I of the Well-tempered Clavier, and in a better known example, in his 1981 recording of Variation 5 of the Goldberg Variations
  21. ^ Friedrich, 1990, p. 27. Otto Friedrich dates this incident on the basis of discussion with Gould's father, who is cited by Friedrich as stating that it occurred "when the boy was about ten".
  22. ^ Ostwald 1997, p. 71.
  23. ^ Ostwald 1997, p. 73.
  24. ^ Friedrich (1990), p.31
  25. ^ In outtakes of the Goldberg Variations, Gould describes clearly his practicing technique by composing a drill on Variation 11, remarking that he is "still sloppy" and with his usual humor that "a little practicing is in order." He is also heard practicing other parts of the Goldbergs. Of earlier years, it was recalled that "he would not come out [away from the piano] until he knew it" (of one of Beethoven's piano concertos, from the film Glenn Gould: A Portrait, 1985).
  26. ^ Interview with Gould by David Dubal in "The World of the Concert Pianist", pp. 180–183. There are recordings of Gould practicing, but to what extent he did is difficult to determine.
  27. ^ From the liner notes to Bach Partitas, Preludes and Fugues, p. 15: Sony CD SM2K-52597.
  28. ^ "Glenn Gould, Biography". Sony BMG Masterworks. Archived from the original on 2008-02-10. http://web.archive.org/web/20080210175113/http://www.sonyclassical.com/artists/gould/bio.html. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  29. ^ Friedrich, 1990, p. 147.
  30. ^ Friedrich, 1990, p. 100.
  31. ^ Bazzana, 2003, p.263
  32. ^ Gould, Glenn (1966). "The Prospects of Recording – Resources – The Glenn Gould Archive". Library and Archives Canada. http://www.collectionscanada.ca/glenngould/028010-502.1-e.html#d. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  33. ^ Ostwald, 1997, p.119
  34. ^ "Of Mozart and Related Matters. Glenn Gould in Conversation with Bruno Monsaingeon", Piano Quarterly, Fall 1976. Reprinted in Page (1990), p. 33. See also Ostwald, p. 249.
  35. ^ Ostwald 1997, p. 249.
  36. ^ Ostwald, 1997, p.257
  37. ^ Ostwald, 1997, pp. 256-257
  38. ^ Friedrich, 1990, p.141
  39. ^ He discusses this on the Bruno Monsaingeon film Chemins de la Musique.
  40. ^ "Voyager — Music From Earth". NASA. http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/spacecraft/music.html. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  41. ^ a b c Gould Meets Menuhin, Sony Classical, SMK 52688, 1993.
  42. ^ Sony Classical, Richard Strauss, Ophelia-Lieder, et al., SM2K 52657, 1992, Liner Notes, p. 12.
  43. ^ CBC's Dan Bjarnason reports on newly discovered film of Glenn Gould's live television performance for the Queen's 1957 visit to Canada (Runs 3:24). It also contained footage of a Quodlibet including the Star-Spangled Banner and God Save the Queen.
  44. ^ The Schubert can be seen briefly on Hereafter, the transcription of Bruckner's 8th symphony Gould alludes to in an article in The Glenn Gould Reader where he deprecates its "sheer ledger-line unplayability"; the Strauss opera playing can be seen in one of the Humphrey Burton conversations and is referred to by almost everyone who saw him play in private.
  45. ^ Friedrich, 1990, pp. 165-166
  46. ^ Friedrich, 1990, p.170
  47. ^ Friedrich, 1990, p.172
  48. ^ Bazzana, 2003, p. 47.
  49. ^ Greenfield, E., Layton, R., & March, I., The New Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and Cassettes, Penguin, 1988, p. 44.
  50. ^ Friedrich, 1990, p. 50.
  51. ^ Ostwald 1997, p. 18.
  52. ^ Friedrich, 1990, p. 51.
  53. ^ Ostwald, 1997, pp. 304–306.
  54. ^ a b Bazzana 2003, p. 158.
  55. ^ Friedrich, p. 62.
  56. ^ "Musician's Medical Maladies". Arizona Health Sciences Library. Archived from the original on 2007-12-30. http://web.archive.org/web/20071230140202/http://www.ahsl.arizona.edu/about/ahslexhibits/musicianmedicalmaladies/musicians.cfm. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  57. ^ From the liner notes to Bach Partitas, Preludes and Fugues, p. 14: Sony CD SM2K-52597.
  58. ^ "Glenn Gould: Variations on an Artist". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. http://archives.cbc.ca/IDC-1-68-320-1673/arts_entertainment/glenn_gould/. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  59. ^ These comments can be found in essays in The Glenn Gould Reader.
  60. ^ Gould, Glenn. The Glenn Gould Reader. ISBN 0-5711-4852-2. 
  61. ^ This is discussed and can be seen on the film On and Off the Record.
  62. ^ Friedrich, p. 267. Interview of Timothy Findley: "[...]Everybody said you never touched his hands, you never try to shake hands with him, but the first thing he did to me was to offer to shake hands. He offered me his hand in a very definite way, none of this tentative, 'don't-touch-me' stuff."
  63. ^ Monsaingeon, Bruno, 'Introduction to The Last Puritan', 1983, http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/glenngould/028010-502.15-e.html. Library and Archives Canada, Retrieved on 2009-05-29
  64. ^ The Toronto Star, August 25, 2007, http://www.thestar.com/article/249787 Retrieved on 2009-05-29
  65. ^ The Toronto Star, August 25, 2007, http://www.thestar.com/article/249787 Retrieved on 2009-05-29.
  66. ^ "The Glenn Gould School". Royal Conservatory of Music. http://www.rcmusic.ca/ContentPage.aspx?name=glennGould. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  67. ^ a b Bazzana (2003), p. 27
  68. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 108
  69. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 354
  70. ^ Bazzana (2003), pp. 352–368
  71. ^ Ostwald (1997), p. 329

Bibliography

  • Bazzana, Kevin (2004). Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195174402. OCLC 54687539. 
  • Friedrich, Otto (1989). Glenn Gould: A Life and Variations. New York: Random House. ISBN 0394562992. OCLC 18496637. 
  • Ostwald, Peter F. (1997). Glenn Gould: The Ecstasy and Tragedy of Genius. New York: Norton. ISBN 0393040771. OCLC 35586754. 
  • Payzant, Geoffrey (1978). Glenn Gould: Music & Mind. Toronto; London: Van Nostrand Reinhold. ISBN 0442298021. OCLC 16422990. 

External links

See also


Glenn Gould
Born September 25, 1932
Toronto, Ontario
Died October 4, 1982 (aged 50)
Toronto, Ontario
Occupation Pianist, writer, broadcaster

Glenn Herbert Gould[N 1][N 2] (September 25, 1932 – October 4, 1982) was a Canadian pianist who became one of the best-known and most celebrated classical pianists of the twentieth century. He was particularly renowned as an interpreter of the keyboard music of Johann Sebastian Bach. His playing was distinguished by a remarkable technical proficiency and a capacity to articulate the polyphonic texture of Bach’s music.

Gould rejected most of the standard Romantic piano literature and shunned the performance of several of its composers such as Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann, and Frédéric Chopin. Although his recordings were dominated by Bach, Gould's oeuvre was diverse, including works by Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Brahms, pre-Baroque composers, and twentieth-century atonal composers such as Arnold Schoenberg. Gould was also well-known for various eccentricities, ranging from his unorthodox musical interpretations and mannerisms at the keyboard, to aspects of his lifestyle and personal behavior. He abandoned the concert platform at the age of 31 to concentrate on studio recording and other projects.

Gould was also known as a writer, composer, conductor, and broadcaster. He was a prolific contributor to musical journals, in which he discussed musical theory and outlined his musical philosophy. His career as a composer was less distinguished; his output was minimal and many projects were left unfinished. There is evidence that, if he had lived beyond the age of fifty, he intended to abandon the piano, and devote the remainder of his career to conducting and other projects. As a broadcaster, Gould was prolific. His output ranged from television and radio broadcasts of studio performances to non-musical radio documentaries about life in the Canadian wilderness.

Contents

Life

Glenn Herbert Gould was born at home in Toronto on September 25, 1932, to Russell Herbert ("Bert") Gold and Florence ("Flora") Emma Gold (née Greig),[3] Presbyterians of Scottish and English ancestry.[4] His maternal grandfather was a cousin of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.[5] The family's surname was changed to Gould informally around 1939 in order to avoid being mistaken as Jewish, because of a series of reasons centering on the prevailing anti-Semitism of prewar Toronto and the Gold surname's Jewish association.[N 3] Gould had no Jewish ancestry,[N 4] though he sometimes made jokes on the subject, like "When people ask me if I'm Jewish, I always tell them that I was Jewish during the war."[2]

[[File:|thumb|upright|Gould in February 1946 with his dog, Nick]] Gould's interest in music and his talent as a pianist became evident very early on. Both his parents were musical, and his mother, especially, encouraged the infant Gould's early musical development. Prior to his birth, his mother planned for Glenn to become a successful musician, especially a pianist, and thus exposed him to music during her pregnancy.[6] As a baby, he reportedly hummed instead of crying and wiggled his fingers as if playing chords, leading his doctor to predict that Glenn would "be either a physician or a pianist".[7] By the age of three, Glenn's perfect pitch was noticed and Glenn learned to read music before he could read words.[8][9] When presented with a piano, young Glenn was reported to strike single notes and listen to their long decay, a practice his father Bert noted was different from typical children.[8] Glenn's interest in the piano proceeded side by side with an interest in composition; he would play his own little pieces for family, friends, and sometimes large gatherings, including, in 1938, a performance at the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church (a few blocks from the Gould house) of one of own compositions.[10] When he was six, Glenn was taken for the first time to hear a live musical performance by a celebrated soloist; this had a tremendous effect on him. He later described the experience:

It was Hofmann. It was, I think, his last performance in Toronto, and it was a staggering impression. The only thing I can really remember is that, when I was being brought home in a car, I was in that wonderful state of half-awakeness in which you hear all sorts of incredible sounds going through your mind. They were all orchestral sounds, but I was playing them all, and suddenly I was Hofmann. I was enchanted.[11]

As a young child, Glenn was taught by his mother. He began attending The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, where he studied piano with Alberto Guerrero, organ with Frederick C. Silvester, and music theory with Leo Smith, at the age of ten. Gould passed his final Conservatory examination in piano at the age of twelve (achieving the 'highest marks of any candidate'), thus attaining 'professional standing as a pianist' at that age.[12] One year later he passed the written theory exams, qualifying for the ATCM diploma (Associate, Toronto Conservatory of Music).[12]

In 1945, he gave his first public performance, playing the organ,[13] and the following year, he made his first appearance with an orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, in a performance of the first movement of Beethoven's 4th piano concerto.[14] His first solo recital followed in 1947,[15] and his first recital on radio was with the CBC in 1950.[16] This was the beginning of his long association with radio and recording. He founded the Festival Trio chamber group in 1953 with the cellist Isaac Mamott and the violinist Albert Pratz.

In 1957 Gould embarked on a tour of the Soviet Union, becoming the first North American to play there since World War II.[17] His concerts featured Bach, Beethoven, and the serial music of Schoenberg and Berg, which had been suppressed in the Soviet Union during the era of Socialist Realism. Gould made his Boston debut in 1958, playing for the Peabody Mason Concert Series.[18] One audience member was so moved that she wrote a letter to the Editor of the Boston Herald commenting, "If I never hear Bach's Goldberg Variations again, I feel with all my heart that I have heard the ultimate, and am grateful".[19]

On April 10, 1964, Gould gave his last public performance, playing in Los Angeles, at the Wilshire Ebell Theater.[20] Among the pieces he performed that night were Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 30, selections from Bach's The Art of Fugue, and Paul Hindemith's Piano Sonata No. 3.[N 5] Gould performed fewer than two hundred concerts over the course of his career, of which fewer than forty were overseas. For pianists such as Van Cliburn, two hundred concerts would have amounted to about two year's touring.[23] For the rest of his life, Gould eschewed live performance, focusing instead on recording, writing, and broadcasting. Towards the end of his life, he began conducting; he had earlier directed Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 and the cantata Widerstehe doch der Sünde from the harpsipiano (a piano with metal hammers to simulate a harpsichord's sound), and Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 2 (Urlicht part) in the 1960s. His last recording was as a conductor, conducting Wagner's Siegfried Idyll in its original chamber music scoring. He had intended to give up the piano at the age of 50, spending later years conducting, writing about music, and composing.[24]

On September 27, 1982, after experiencing a severe headache, he suffered a stroke, which paralyzed the left side of his body. He was admitted to the Toronto General Hospital, and his condition rapidly deteriorated. By October 4, there was evidence of brain damage, and Gould's father decided that his son should be taken off life support.[25] He is buried in Toronto's Mount Pleasant Cemetery, next to his parents. The first few measures of the Goldberg Variations are carved on his marker.

Gould as a pianist

Gould was known for his vivid musical imagination, and listeners regarded his interpretations as ranging from brilliantly creative to, on occasion, outright eccentric. His piano playing had great clarity, particularly in contrapuntal passages, and extraordinary control. He was considered a child prodigy, and in adulthood was also described as a musical phenomenon. As he played, he often swayed his torso, almost always in a clockwise motion.

File:Glenn Gould and Alberto
Glenn Gould with his teacher, Alberto Guerrero, demonstrating Guerrero's technical idea that Gould should pull down at keys instead of striking them from above. The photo was taken in 1945 before Gould fully developed this technique.

When Gould was around ten years old, he injured his back as a result of a fall from a boat ramp on the shore of Lake Simcoe.[N 6] This incident is almost certainly related to his father's subsequent construction for him of an adjustable-height chair, which he used for the rest of his life. This famous chair was designed so that Gould could sit very low at the keyboard, with the object of pulling down on the keys rather than striking them from above — a central technical idea of his teacher, Alberto Guerrero.[27] Gould's mother urged the young Gould to sit up straight at the keyboard.[28]

Gould developed a formidable technique. It enabled him to choose very fast tempos whilst retaining the separateness and clarity of each note. His extremely low position at the instrument arguably permitted more control over the keyboard. Gould showed considerable technical skill in performing and recording a wide repertoire including virtuosic and romantic works, such as his own arrangement of Ravel's La valse and Liszt's transcriptions of Beethoven's fifth and sixth symphonies. Gould worked from a young age with his teacher Alberto Guerrero on a technique known as finger-tapping: a method of training the fingers to act more independently from the arm.[29]

Gould claimed he almost never practiced on the piano, preferring to study music by reading it rather than playing it[N 7] another technique he had learned from Guerrero. His manual practicing focused on articulation, rather than basic facility. He may have spoken ironically about his practicing, but there is evidence that on occasion, he did practice quite hard, sometimes using his own drills and techniques.[N 8]

He stated that he didn't understand the requirement of other pianists to continuously reinforce their relationship with the instrument by practising many hours a day.[31] It seems that Gould was able to practise mentally without access to an instrument, and even took this so far as to prepare for a recording of Brahms piano works without ever playing them until a few weeks before the recording sessions. This is all the more staggering considering the absolute accuracy and phenomenal dexterity exhibited in his playing. Gould's large repertoire also demonstrated this natural mnemonic gift.

The piano, Gould said, "is not an instrument for which I have any great love as such... [but] I have played it all my life, and it is the best vehicle I have to express my ideas." In the case of Bach, Gould admitted, "[I] fixed the action in some of the instruments I play on—and the piano I use for all recordings is now so fixed—so that it is a shallower and more responsive action than the standard. It tends to have a mechanism which is rather like an automobile without power steering: you are in control and not it; it doesn't drive you, you drive it. This is the secret of doing Bach on the piano at all. You must have that immediacy of response, that control over fine definitions of things."[32]

Of significant influence upon the teenage Gould were Artur Schnabel (Gould: "The piano was a means to an end for him, and the end was to approach Beethoven."); Rosalyn Tureck's recordings of Bach ("upright, with a sense of repose and positiveness"); and Leopold Stokowski.[33]

Gould had a pronounced aversion to what he termed a "hedonistic" approach to the piano repertoire, performance, and music generally. For Gould, "hedonism" in this sense denoted a superficial theatricality, something to which he felt Mozart, for example, became increasingly susceptible later in his career.[34] He associated this drift towards hedonism with the emergence of a cult of showmanship and gratuitous virtuosity on the concert platform in the nineteenth century and later. The institution of the public concert, he felt, degenerated into the "blood sport" with which he struggled, and which he ultimately rejected.[35]

Recordings and compositions

In creating music, Gould much preferred the control and intimacy provided by the recording studio; he disliked the concert hall, which he compared to a competitive sporting arena. After his final public performance in 1964, he devoted his career solely to the studio, recording albums and several radio documentaries. He was attracted to the technical aspects of recording, and considered the manipulation of tape to be another part of the creative process. Although Gould's recording studio producers have testified that 'he needed splicing, less than most performers',[36] Gould used the process to give him total artistic control over the recording process. He recounted his recording of the A minor fugue from Book I of The Well-Tempered Clavier and how it was spliced together from two takes, with the fugue's expositions from one take and its episodes from another.[37]

The pianist's first recording, Bach: The Goldberg Variations, came in 1955, at Columbia Records 30th Street Studios in New York City. Although there was initially some controversy at CBS as to whether this was the most appropriate piece to record, the finished product received phenomenal praise and was among the best-selling classical music albums of its time.[38] Gould became closely associated with the piece, playing it in full or in part at many of his recitals. Another version of the Goldberg Variations, recorded in 1981, would be among his last recordings, and one of only a few pieces he recorded twice in the studio. The 1981 recording was one of CBS Masterworks' first digital recordings. The two recordings are very different: the first, highly energetic and often frenetic; the second, slower and more introspective. In the latter, Gould treats the aria and its thirty variations as one cohesive piece.[N 9]

Gould revered Bach: "[he was] first and last an architect, a constructor of sound, and what makes him so inestimably valuable to us is that he was beyond a doubt the greatest architect of sound who ever lived".[39] He recorded most of Bach's other keyboard works, including the complete Well-Tempered Clavier, Partitas, French Suites, English Suites, and keyboard concertos. For his only recording at the organ, he recorded about half of The Art of Fugue. He also recorded all five of Beethoven's piano concertos and 23 of the 32 piano sonatas.

Gould also recorded works by Brahms, Mozart, and many other prominent piano composers, though he was outspoken in his criticism of some of them. He was extremely critical of Frédéric Chopin. In a radio interview, when asked if he didn't find himself wanting to play Chopin, he replied: "No, I don't. I play it in a weak moment — maybe once a year or twice a year for myself. But it doesn't convince me." Although Gould recorded all of Mozart's sonatas and admitted enjoying the "actual playing" of them,[40] he was a harsh critic of Mozart's music to the extent of arguing (perhaps a little puckishly) that Mozart died too late rather than too early.[41] He was fond of many lesser-known composers, such as Orlando Gibbons, whose Anthems he had heard as a teenager,[42] and for whose music he felt a 'spiritual attachment'.[43] He recorded a number of Gibbons's keyboard works and nominated him as his all-time favourite composer,[44] despite his better-known admiration for the technical mastery of Bach.[N 10] He made recordings of piano music little-known in North America, including music by Jean Sibelius (the sonatines, Kyllikki); Georges Bizet (the Variations Chromatiques de Concert and the Premier nocturne); Richard Strauss (the piano sonata, the five pieces, Enoch Arden); and Paul Hindemith (the three sonatas, the sonatas for brass and piano). He also made recordings of the complete piano works and Lieder of Arnold Schoenberg.

One of Gould's performances of the Prelude and Fugue in C major from Book II of The Well-Tempered Clavier was chosen for inclusion on the NASA Voyager Golden Record by a committee headed by Carl Sagan. The disc of recordings was placed on the spacecraft Voyager 1, which is now approaching interstellar space and is the farthest human-made object from Earth.[45]

Arrangements and compositions

Not only a composer, Gould was a prolific arranger of orchestral repertoire for piano. His arrangements include his recorded Wagner and Ravel transcriptions, as well as the operas of Richard Strauss and the symphonies of Schubert and Bruckner, which he played privately for own pleasure.[N 11]

As a teenager, Gould wrote chamber music and piano works in the style of the Second Viennese school of composition. His only significant work was the String Quartet, Op. 1, which he finished when he was in his 20s, and perhaps his cadenzas to Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1. Later works include the Lieberson Madrigal (SATB and piano), and So You Want to Write a Fugue? (SATB with piano or string quartet accompaniment). The majority of his work is published by Schott Music. The recording Glenn Gould: The Composer contains his original works.

The String Quartet Op. 1 (published in 1956 and recorded in 1960) had a mixed reception from critics. For example, the notices from the Christian Science Monitor and The Saturday Review were quite laudatory, while the response from the Montreal Star was less so.[46] There is little critical commentary on Gould's compositional work for the simple reason that there are few compositions; he did not proceed beyond Opus 1. Gould left many compositions unfinished;[47] he ultimately failed in his ambition to become a composer because, as he admitted himself, he lacked a 'personal voice'.[48]

Collaborations

The success of Gould's collaborations with other artists was to a degree dependent upon their receptiveness to his sometimes unconventional readings of the music. His television collaboration with Yehudi Menuhin in 1965, recording works by Bach, Beethoven and Schoenberg,[49] was deemed a success because "Menuhin was ready to embrace the new perspective opened up by an unorthodox view."[49] In 1966, his collaboration with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, however, recording Richard Strauss's Ophelia Lieder, op. 67, was deemed an "outright fiasco".[49] Schwarzkopf believed in "total fidelity" to the score, but she also objected to the thermal conditions in the recording studio: "The studio was incredibly overheated, which may be good for a pianist but not for a singer: a dry throat is the end as far as singing is concerned. But we persevered nonetheless. It wasn't easy for me. Gould began by improvising something Straussian—we thought he was simply warming up, but no, he continued to play like that throughout the actual recordings, as though Strauss's notes were just a pretext that allowed him to improvise freely...".[50]

Radio documentaries

Less well-known is Gould's work in radio. This work was, in part, the result of Gould's long association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for which he produced numerous television and radio programs. Notable recordings include his Solitude Trilogy, consisting of The Idea of North, a meditation on Northern Canada and its people; The Latecomers, about Newfoundland; and The Quiet in the Land, on Mennonites in Manitoba. All three use a technique that Gould called "contrapuntal radio", in which several people are heard speaking at once—much like the voices in a fugue.

Character and personal life

File:Glenn Gould's
A replica of Glenn Gould's chair.

Eccentricities

Gould is widely known for his unusual habits. He usually hummed while he played the piano, and his recording engineers had mixed results in how successfully they were able to exclude his voice from recordings. Gould claimed that his singing was subconscious and increased proportionately with the inability of the piano in question to realize the music as he intended. It is likely that this habit originated in Gould's having been taught by his mother to "sing everything that he played", as Kevin Bazzana puts it. This became "an unbreakable (and notorious) habit".[51] Some of Gould's recordings were severely criticised because of the background "vocalise". For example, a reviewer of his 1981 re-recording of the Goldberg Variations opined that many listeners would "find the groans and croons intolerable".[52]

Gould was renowned for his peculiar body movements while playing and for his insistence on absolute control over every aspect of his playing environment. The temperature of the recording studio had to be exactly regulated. He invariably insisted that it be extremely warm. According to Friedrich, the air conditioning engineer had to work just as hard as the recording engineers.[53] The piano had to be set at a certain height and would be raised on wooden blocks if necessary.[54] A small rug would sometimes be required for his feet underneath the piano.[55] He had to sit fourteen inches above the floor and would only play concerts while sitting on the old chair his father had made. He continued to use this chair even when the seat was completely worn through.[56] His chair is so closely identified with him that it is shown in a place of honor in a glass case at the National Library of Canada.

Conductors responded diversely to Gould and his playing habits. George Szell, who led Gould in 1957 with the Cleveland Orchestra, remarked to his assistant, "That nut's a genius."[57] Leonard Bernstein said, "There is nobody quite like him, and I just love playing with him."[57] Ironically, Bernstein created a stir in April 1962 when, just before the New York Philharmonic was to perform the Brahms D minor piano concerto with Gould as soloist, he informed the audience that he was assuming no responsibility for what they were about to hear. Specifically, he was referring to Gould's insistence that the entire first movement be played at half the indicated tempo. Plans for a studio recording of the performance came to nothing; the live radio broadcast (along with Bernstein's disclaimer) was subsequently released on CD.

Gould was averse to cold, and wore heavy clothing (including gloves), even in warm places. He was once arrested, presumably mistaken for a vagrant, while sitting on a park bench in Sarasota, Florida, dressed in his standard all-climate attire of coat(s), warm hat, and mittens.[58] He also disliked social functions. He hated being touched, and in later life he limited personal contact, relying on the telephone and letters for communication. Upon one visit to historic Steinway Hall in New York City in 1959, the chief piano technician at the time, William Hupfer, greeted Gould by giving him a slap on the back. Gould was shocked by this, and complained of aching, lack of coordination, and fatigue because of the incident; he even went on to explore the possibility of litigation against Steinway & Sons if his apparent injuries were permanent.[59] He was known for cancelling performances at the last minute, which is why Bernstein's above-mentioned public disclaimer opens with, "Don't be frightened, Mr. Gould is here; will appear in a moment."

In his liner notes and broadcasts, Gould created more than two dozen alter egos for satirical, humorous, or didactic purposes, permitting him to write hostile reviews or incomprehensible commentaries on his own performances. Probably the best-known are the German musicologist "Karlheinz Klopweisser", the English conductor "Sir Nigel Twitt-Thornwaite", and the American critic "Theodore Slutz".[60] These facets of Gould, whether interpreted as neurosis or "play",[61] have provided ample material for psychobiography.

Fran's Restaurant in Toronto was a regular haunt of Gould's. A CBC profile noted, "sometime between two and three every morning, Gould would go to Fran's, a 24-hour diner a block away from his Toronto apartment, sit in the same booth, and order the same meal of scrambled eggs."[62]

Health

Gould suffered many pains and ailments, though he was something of a hypochondriac[N 12] (admitting it himself on at least one occasion), and his autopsy revealed few underlying problems in areas that often troubled him.[N 13] Early in his life, Gould suffered a spine injury. His physicians prescribed, usually independently, an assortment of analgesics, anxiolytics, and other drugs. Some speculate that his extensive use of prescription medications throughout his career had a deleterious effect on his health.

He was highly concerned about his health throughout his life, worrying about everything from high blood pressure (which in his later years he recorded in diary form) to the safety of his hands. Gould rarely shook hands with anyone and usually wore gloves.[N 14][N 15]

Relationships

Gould lived a private life: Bruno Monsaingeon said of him, "No supreme pianist has ever given of his heart and mind so overwhelmingly while showing himself so sparingly."[66]

In 2007, Cornelia Foss, wife of composer and conductor Lukas Foss, publicly claimed that she and Gould had had a love affair lasting several years.[67] She and her husband had met Gould in Los Angeles in 1956. Cornelia was an art instructor who had studied sculpture at the American Academy in Rome; Lukas was a pianist and composer who conducted both the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Brooklyn Philharmonic.

After several years, Glenn and Cornelia became lovers.[67] Cornelia left Lukas in 1967 for Gould, taking her two children with her to Toronto, where she purchased a house near Gould's apartment, at 110 St. Clair Avenue West. According to Cornelia, "There were a lot of misconceptions about Glenn, and it was partly because he was so very private. But I assure you, he was an extremely heterosexual man. Our relationship was, among other things, quite sexual." Their affair lasted until 1972, when she returned to Lukas. As early as two weeks after leaving her husband, she had noticed disturbing signs in Gould. She describes a serious paranoid episode:

"It lasted several hours, and then I knew he was not just neurotic—there was more to it. I thought to myself, 'Good grief, am I going to bring up my children in this environment?' But I stayed four and a half years." Foss did not discuss details, but others close to Gould said he was convinced someone was trying to poison him and that others were spying on him.[67]

Philosophical and aesthetic views

Gould said that if he had not been a musician, he would have been a writer. He expounded his criticism and philosophy of music and art in lectures, convocation speeches, periodicals, and radio and television documentaries for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Gould participated in many interviews, and had a predilection for scripting them to the extent that they may be seen as much as "works" as off-the-cuff discussions. His writing style was highly articulate but sometimes florid, indulgent, or rhetorical. This is especially evident in those works in which he attempts humour or irony, which he did often.[N 16]

In these he praised certain composers and rejected what he deemed banal in music composition and its consumption by the public, and also gave insightful analyses of the music of Richard Strauss, Alban Berg and Anton Webern. Despite certain modernist sympathies, Gould's attitude to popular music was ambivalent or negative. He enjoyed a jazz concert with his friends as a youth, mentioned jazz in his writings, and once criticized The Beatles for "bad voice leading"[N 17]—while praising Petula Clark and Barbra Streisand. He shared a mutual admiration with jazz pianist Bill Evans, who made his seminal record Conversations with Myself using Gould's celebrated Steinway CD 318 piano. Gould believed that the keyboard is fulfilled as an instrument primarily through counterpoint, a musical style that reached its zenith during the Baroque era. Much of the homophony that followed, he felt, belongs to a less serious and less spiritual period of art.

On performance

Gould was convinced that the institution of the public concert was not only an anachronism, but also a "force of evil", leading to his retirement from concert performance. He argued that public performance devolved into a sort of competition, with a non-empathetic audience (musically and otherwise) mostly attendant to the possibility of the performer erring or not meeting critical expectation. This doctrine he set forth, only half in jest, in "GPAADAK", the Gould Plan for the Abolition of Applause and Demonstrations of All Kinds.[69]

One of Gould's reasons for abandoning live performance was his aesthetic preference for the recording studio, where, in his words, he developed a "love affair with the microphone".[70] There, he could control every aspect of the final musical "product" by selecting parts of various takes. He felt that he could realize a musical score more fully this way. Thus, the act of musical composition, to Gould, did not entirely end with the original score; the performer had to make creative choices, and Gould felt strongly that there was little point in re-recording centuries-old pieces if the performer had no new perspective to bring to the work.

Technology and authenticity

The issue of "authenticity" in relation to an approach like Gould's has been a topic of great debate, although diminished by the end of the twentieth century—a development that Gould seems to have anticipated. It asks whether a recording is less authentic or "direct" for having been highly refined by technical means in the studio. Gould likened his process to that of a film director—one does not perceive that a two-hour film was made in two hours—and implicitly asks why the act of listening to music should be any different. He went so far as to conduct an "experiment" with musicians, sound engineers, and laypeople in which they were to listen to a recording and determine where the splices occurred. Each group chose different points based on their relationship to music, but none successfully. While the conclusion was hardly scientific, Gould remarked, "The tape does lie, and nearly always gets away with it".[71]

In a lecture and essay titled "Forgery and Imitation in the Creative Process", one of Gould's most significant texts,[72] he makes explicit his views on authenticity and creativity. Gould asks why the epoch in which a work is received influences its reception as "art", postulating a sonata he composes that sounds so much like Haydn that it is received as such. If, instead, the same sonata had been attributed to a somewhat earlier or later composer, it becomes more or less interesting as a piece of music. Yet it is not the work that has changed but its relation within the accepted narrative of music history. Similarly, Gould notes the "pathetic duplicity" in the reception of high-quality forgeries by Hans van Meegeren of new paintings attributed to Dutch Golden Age master Vermeer, before and after the forgery was known.

Gould, therefore, prefers an ahistorical, or at least pre-Renaissance, view of art, minimizing the identity of the artist and the attendant historical context in evaluating the artwork: "What gives us the right to assume that in the work of art we must receive a direct communication with the historical attitudes of another period? ... moreover, what makes us assume that the situation of the man who wrote it accurately or faithfully reflects the situation of his time? ... What if the composer, as historian, is faulty?"[73]

"The Last Puritan"

A 1962 quote is often used to summarize Gould's perspective on art: "The justification of art is the internal combustion it ignites in the hearts of men and not its shallow, externalized, public manifestations. The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity."[74]

Gould referred to himself repeatedly as "the last puritan", a reference to philosopher George Santayana's novel of the same name. Weighing this statement against Gould's highly individualistic lifestyle and artistic vision leads to an apparent contradiction. He was progressive in many ways, promulgating the controversial atonal composers, and anticipating, through his deep involvement with the recording process, the vast changes that technology would have on the production and distribution of music. Mark Kingwell summarizes the paradox, never resolved by Gould nor his biographers:

He was progressive and anti-progressive at once, and likewise at once both a critic of the Zeitgeist and its most interesting expression. He was, in effect, stranded on a beachhead of his own thinking between past and future. That he was not able, by himself, to fashion a bridge between them is neither surprising, nor, in the end, disappointing. We should see this failure, rather, as an aspect of his genius. He both was and was not a man of his time.[75]

Legacy

Gould is one of the most acclaimed 20th-century classical musicians. His unique pianistic method, insight into the architecture of compositions, and relatively free interpretation of scores created performances and recordings that were revelatory to many listeners while highly objectionable to others. Philosopher Mark Kingwell writes that "his influence is made inescapable; no performer after him can avoid the example he sets... Now, everyone must perform through him: he can be emulated or rejected, but he cannot be ignored."[76]

Gould left an extensive body of work beyond the keyboard. After his retirement from concert performance, he was increasingly interested in other media, including audio and film documentary and writing, through which he mused on aesthetics, composition, music history, and the effect of the electronic age on the consumption of media. (Gould grew up in Toronto at the same time that Canadian theorists Marshall McLuhan, Northrop Frye, and Harold Innis were making their mark on communications studies.[77]) Anthologies of his writing and letters have been published.[78] The National Library of Canada retains an archive called the Glenn Gould Fonds.

Gould is a popular subject of biography and even critical analysis. Philosophers such as Giorgio Agamben and Mark Kingwell have interpreted Gould's life and ideas.[79] References to Gould and his work are plentiful in the visual arts, fiction, and poetry.[80]

Awards and recognition

Glenn Gould received many honors before and after his death, although he personally claimed to despise competition in music. In 1983, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

Gould won four Grammy Awards:

See also

Music of Canada portal

Notes

Footnotes
  1. ^ Bazzana states, "Gould's first name is frequently misspelled as "Glen" in documents (including official ones) dating back to the beginning of his life, and Gould himself used both spellings interchangeably throughout his life."[1] Bazzana further investigated the name-change records in Ontario's Office of the Registrar General and found only a record of his father Bert's name-change to Gould in 1979 (to be able to legally marry with that name); he concludes that the family's name-change was informal and "Gould was still legally 'Glenn Herbert Gold' when he died."[2]
  2. ^ According to Bazzana, "[Gould's] birth certificate gave his name as 'Gold, Glenn Herbert.' The family name had always been Gold [...] All of the documents through 1938 that survive among Gould's papers give his surname as 'Gold,' but beginning at least as early as June 1939, the family name was almost always printed 'Gould' in newspapers, programs, and other sources; the last confirmed publication of 'Gold' is in the program for a church supper and concert on October 27, 1940. The whole family adopted the new surname."[2]
  3. ^ Full circumstances of the name-change can be found in Bazzana (2003), pp. 24–26.
  4. ^ According to Bazzana, "At least as far back as the mid-eighteenth century, there were no Jews in this particular Gold lineage."[1]
  5. ^ Friedrich first states that Gould performed the Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 30 (Opus 109)[21] but later states that he performed the Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 31 (Opus 110).[22] Bazzana cites the Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 30 (Opus 109)[20]
  6. ^ Otto Friedrich dates this incident on the basis of discussion with Gould's father, who is cited by Friedrich as stating that it occurred "when the boy was about ten".[26]
  7. ^ In earlier years, Glenn Gould's father recalled that Glenn "would not come out [of his bedroom] until he memorized the whole music" regarding one of Beethoven's piano concertos.[30]
  8. ^ In outtakes of the Goldberg Variations, Gould describes his practicing technique by composing a drill on Variation 11, remarking that he is "still sloppy" and with his usual humor that "a little practicing is in order." He is also heard practicing other parts of the Goldbergs.
  9. ^ There are two other Gould recordings of the Goldberg Variations. One is a live recording from 1954 (CBC PSCD2007); the other is a live recording from Salzburg in 1959 (Sony SRCR-9500).
  10. ^ He discusses this on the Bruno Monsaingeon film Chemins de la Musique.
  11. ^ The Schubert can be seen briefly on Hereafter, the transcription of Bruckner's 8th symphony Gould alludes to in an article in The Glenn Gould Reader where he deprecates its "sheer ledger-line unplayability"; the Strauss opera playing can be seen in one of the Humphrey Burton conversations and is referred to by almost everyone who saw him play in private.
  12. ^ In a heading, Bazzana quotes Gould as saying, "They say I'm a hypochondriac, and, of course, I am."[63]
  13. ^ Ostwald specifies "No physical abnormalities were found in the kidneys, prostate, bones, joints, muscles, or other parts of the body that Glenn so often had complained about."[64]
  14. ^ This is discussed and can be seen on the film On and Off the Record.
  15. ^ The claim that Gould "never shook hands" is exaggerated. Timothy Findley: "Everybody said you never touched his hands, you never try to shake hands with him, but the first thing he did to me was to offer to shake hands. He offered me his hand in a very definite way, none of this tentative, 'don't-touch-me' stuff."[65]
  16. ^ These include his famous "self-interview", his book review of a biography written about him (in which he refers to himself in the third person)—not to mention the various appearances of his "alter egos" in print, radio, or TV, including an "extended and rather strained radio joke show", ("Critics Callout Corner" on the Silver Jubilee Album, 1980) which Kingwell comments on: "The humour is punishing... There can be no excuse for it, and the one clear lesson of the recording is that it could exist only because of the stature of its creator. Gould in effect called in twenty-five years of chits from Columbia when he got them to release this embarrassing piece of twaddle."[68]
  17. ^ These comments can be found in essays in The Glenn Gould Reader.
Citations
  1. ^ a b Bazzana (2003), p. 27
  2. ^ a b c Bazzana (2003), p. 24
  3. ^ Bazzana (2003), p. 21
  4. ^ Ostwald (1997), p. 35
  5. ^ Bazzana (2003), p. 30
  6. ^ Ostwald (1997), p. 39
  7. ^ Ostwald (1997), p. 40
  8. ^ a b Friedrich (1990), p. 15
  9. ^ Ostwald (1997), pp. 44–45
  10. ^ Ostwald (1997), p. 48
  11. ^ Payzant (1978), p. 2
  12. ^ a b Bazzana (2003), p. 76
  13. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 32
  14. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 35
  15. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 36
  16. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 38
  17. ^ Bazzana (2003), p. 163
  18. ^ Boston Globe, 22-Mar-1958, Kevin Kelly, "Glenn Gould at Jordan Hall"
  19. ^ Boston Herald, 23-Mar-1958, "Letter to the Editor"
  20. ^ a b Bazzana (2003), p. 229
  21. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 108
  22. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 354
  23. ^ Bazzana (2003), pp. 232–233
  24. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 315
  25. ^ Ostwald (1997), pp. 325–328
  26. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 27
  27. ^ Ostwald (1997), p. 71
  28. ^ Ostwald (1997), p. 73
  29. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 31
  30. ^ Glenn Gould. (22 October 1991) (VHS). Glenn Gould: A Portrait. Kultur Video. 
  31. ^ Dubal (1985), pp. 180–183
  32. ^ From the liner notes to Bach Partitas, Preludes and Fugues, p. 15: Sony CD SM2K-52597.
  33. ^ "Glenn Gould, Biography". Sony BMG Masterworks. Archived from the original on 2008-02-10. http://web.archive.org/web/20080210175113/http://www.sonyclassical.com/artists/gould/bio.html. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  34. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 147
  35. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 100
  36. ^ Bazzana (2003), p. 263
  37. ^ Gould, Glenn (1966). "The Prospects of Recording – Resources – The Glenn Gould Archive". Library and Archives Canada. http://www.collectionscanada.ca/glenngould/028010-502.1-e.html#d. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  38. ^ Ostwald (1997), p. 119
  39. ^ In "Bach the Nonconformist"; Roberts (ed.), 100
  40. ^ "Of Mozart and Related Matters. Glenn Gould in Conversation with Bruno Monsaingeon", Piano Quarterly, Fall 1976. Reprinted in Page (1990), p. 33. See also Ostwald, p. 249.
  41. ^ Ostwald (1997), p. 249
  42. ^ Ostwald (1997), p. 257
  43. ^ Ostwald (1997), pp. 256–257
  44. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 141
  45. ^ "Voyager — Music From Earth". NASA. http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/spacecraft/music.html. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  46. ^ Friedrich (1990), pp. 165–166
  47. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 170
  48. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 172
  49. ^ a b c Gould Meets Menuhin, Sony Classical, SMK 52688, 1993.
  50. ^ Sony Classical, Richard Strauss, Ophelia-Lieder, et al., SM2K 52657, 1992, Liner Notes, p. 12.
  51. ^ Bazzana (2003), p. 47
  52. ^ Greenfield, E., Layton, R., & March, I., The New Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and Cassettes, Penguin, 1988, p. 44.
  53. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 50
  54. ^ Ostwald (1997), p. 18
  55. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 51
  56. ^ Ostwald (1997), pp. 304–306
  57. ^ a b Bazzana (2003), p. 158
  58. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 62
  59. ^ "Musician's Medical Maladies". Arizona Health Sciences Library. Archived from the original on 2007-12-30. http://web.archive.org/web/20071230140202/http://www.ahsl.arizona.edu/about/ahslexhibits/musicianmedicalmaladies/musicians.cfm. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  60. ^ From the liner notes to Bach Partitas, Preludes and Fugues, p. 14: Sony CD SM2K-52597.
  61. ^ On "play", see Kingwell, ch. 11 & 125–28.
  62. ^ "Glenn Gould: Variations on an Artist". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. http://archives.cbc.ca/IDC-1-68-320-1673/arts_entertainment/glenn_gould/. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  63. ^ Bazzana (2003), pp. 352–368
  64. ^ Ostwald (1997), p. 329
  65. ^ Friedrich (1990), p. 267
  66. ^ Monsaingeon, Bruno, 'Introduction to The Last Puritan', 1983, http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/glenngould/028010-502.15-e.html. Library and Archives Canada, Retrieved on 2009-05-29
  67. ^ a b c Clarkson, Michael (August 25, 2007). "The secret life of Glenn Gould". Toronto Star. http://www.thestar.com/article/249787. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  68. ^ Kingwell (2009), p. 180
  69. ^ Gould, Glenn. The Glenn Gould Reader. ISBN 0-5711-4852-2. 
  70. ^ Kingwell (2009), p. 159
  71. ^ Kingwell (2009), pp. 158–59
  72. ^ Editor's introduction to the essay, p. 205. Roberts, P.L. (1999). The Art of Glenn Gould: Reflections of a Musical Genius. Toronto: Malcom Lester Books. ISBN 1-894121-28-7
  73. ^ Roberts, 208
  74. ^ Kingwell (2009), p. 194
  75. ^ Kingwell (2009), p. 166
  76. ^ Kingwell (2009), p. 59
  77. ^ "Introduction" by John Ralston Saul in Kingwell, xi; Kingwell, 34–35
  78. ^ See, for example, Roberts, John P.L. (1999). The Art of Glenn Gould: Reflections of a Musical Genius. Malcolm Lester Books. ISBN 1-894121-28-7
  79. ^ Kingwell (2009), pp. 62, 75
  80. ^ Kingwell (2009), notes 3, 13, 18
  81. ^ "The Glenn Gould School". Royal Conservatory of Music. http://www.rcmusic.ca/ContentPage.aspx?name=glennGould. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 

Bibliography

External links

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I believe that the justification of art is the internal combustion it ignites in the hearts of men and not its shallow, externalized, public manifestations. The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenalin but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.

Glenn Herbert Gould (25 September 19324 October 1982) was a Canadian pianist, noted especially for his recordings of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. He gave up concert performances in 1964, dedicating himself to the recording studio for the rest of his career, and performances for television and radio.

Contents

Sourced

The trouble begins when we start to be so impressed by the strategies of our systematized thought that we forget that it does relate to an obverse, that it is hewn from negation, that it is but very small security against the void of negation which surrounds it. And when that happens, when we forget these things, all sorts of mechanical failures begin to disrupt the functions of the human personality.
  • The mental imagery involved with pianistic tactilia is not related to the striking of individual keys but rather to the rites of passage between notes.
    • review of Payzant, Glenn Gould Reader p445
  • The prerequisite of contrapuntal art, more conspicuous in the work of Bach than in that of any other composer, is an ability to conceive a priori of melodic identities which when transposed, inverted, made retrograde, or transformed rhythmically will yet exhibit, in conjunction with the original subject matter, some entirely new but completely harmonious profile.
    • "So You Want To Write A Fugue", Glenn Gould Reader p240
  • The trouble begins when we start to be so impressed by the strategies of our systematized thought that we forget that it does relate to an obverse, that it is hewn from negation, that it is but very small security against the void of negation which surrounds it. And when that happens, when we forget these things, all sorts of mechanical failures begin to disrupt the functions of the human personality. When people who practice an art like music become captives of those positive assumptions of system, when they forget to credit that happening against negation which system is, and when they become disrespectful of the immensity of negation compared to system — then they put themselves out of reach of that replenishment of invention upon which creative ideas depend, because invention is, in fact, a cautious dipping into the negation that lies outside system from a position firmly ensconced in system.
    • Glenn Gould Reader p5
  • I believe that the justification of art is the internal combustion it ignites in the hearts of men and not its shallow, externalized, public manifestations. The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenalin but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.
    • attributed to Glenn Gould, 1962 in Payzant (Glenn Gould: Music and Mind), p64
  • I wasn't motivated to do it [re-record Bach's Goldberg Variations] until rather recently, when it occurred to me, on one of my rare relistenings to that early recording, that it was very nice, but that it was perhaps a little bit like thirty very interesting but somewhat independent-minded pieces, going their own way, and all making a comment on the ground bass on which they are all formed and to which they all conform. And I suddenly felt, not having played it in, well, since I stopped playing concerts, about 20 years, having not played it in all that time, that maybe I wasn't savaged by any over-exposure to it, and that if I looked at it again, I could find a way of making some sort of almost arithmetical correspondence between the theme and the subsequent variations, so that there would be some sort of temporal relationship, I don't want to say just exactly 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, that kind of correspondence, but, you know what I mean, there would be a sense in which, substituting for the fact that Bach had absolutely no melodic design that is continuous but rather a base {bass?} harmonic design that is continuous, there would be at least a rhythmic design that is continuous, and the sense of pulse that went through it. And that seemed to me sufficient justification [...] to do it all over again.
    • transcribed from The Glenn Gould Collection vol 13 (Sony laserdisc).
  • I think that if I were required to spend the rest of my life on a desert island, and to listen to or play the music of any one composer during all that time, that composer would almost certainly be Bach. I really can't think of any other music which is so all-encompassing, which moves me so deeply and so consistently, and which, to use a rather imprecise word, is valuable beyond all of its skill and brilliance for something more meaningful than that -- its humanity.
    • Gramophone
  • I tend to follow a very nocturnal sort of existence mainly because I don't much care for sunlight. Bright colors of any kind depress me, in fact. And my moods are more or less inversely related to the clarity of the sky, on any given day. A matter of fact, my private motto has always been that behind every silver lining there is a cloud.
    • transcribed from The Life and Times of Glenn Gould

Quotes about Gould

  • Don't be frightened, Mr.Gould is here. (audience laughter) He will appear in a moment. I am not — as you know — in the habit of speaking on any concert except the Thursday night previews, but a curious situation has arisen, which merits, I think, a word or two. You are about to hear a rather, shall we say, unorthodox performance of the Brahms D Minor Concerto, a performance distinctly different from any I've ever heard, or even dreamt of for that matter, in its remarkably broad tempi and its frequent departures from Brahms' dynamic indications. I cannot say I am in total agreement with Mr. Gould's conception. And this raises the interesting question: "What am I doing conducting it?" (mild laughter from the audience) I'm conducting it because Mr. Gould is so valid and serious an artist, that I must take seriously anything he conceives in good faith, and his conception is interesting enough so that I feel you should hear it, too. But the age old question still remains: "In a concerto, who is the boss (audience laughter) — the soloist or the conductor?" (Audience laughter grows louder) The answer is, of course, sometimes one and sometimes the other depending on the people involved. But almost always, the two manage to get together, by persuasion or charm or even threats (audience laughs) to achieve a unified performance. I have only once before in my life had to submit to a soloist's wholly new and incompatible concept, and that was the last time I accompanied Mr. Gould. (audience laughs loudly) But this time, the discrepancies between our views are so great that I feel I must make this small disclaimer. Then why, to repeat the question, am I conducting it? Why do I not make a minor scandal — get a substitute soloist, or let an assistant conduct? Because I am fascinated, glad to have the chance for a new look at this much played work; because, what's more, there are moments in Mr. Gould's performance that emerge with astonishing freshness and conviction. Thirdly, because we can all learn something from this extraordinary artist who is a thinking performer; and finally because there is in music what Dimitri Mitropoulos used to call "the sportive element" (mild audience laughter) — that factor of curiousity, adventure, experiment, and I can assure you that it has been an adventure this week (audience laughter) collaborating with Mr. Gould on this Brahms concerto; and it's in this spirit of adventure that we now present it to you.

The Alchemist

A documentary by Bruno Monsaingeon
Bruno Monsaingeon: What a strange instrument you have!
Glenn Gould: I think that it has a quite good sound!
Monsaingeon: I am not talking about the piano, I was rather talking about this... this... this thing that I don’t know exactly how to call it...
Gould: That thing! (seeming to be irritated, imitating a German accent) Mister, don’t be so disdainful about a member of the family!
Monsaingeon: What do you mean by "member of the family"?
Gould: It is a travel companion, without whom I cannot work, without whom I cannot play. I have been using it for 21 years, this... thing! That we could also classify as chair!
Monsaingeon: Did you really perform concerts with it?
Gould: I’ve never given any concert without it; at least for 21 years.
Monsaingeon: Do you mean... that it has been as close to you than Bach?
Gould: Oh, very much closer for telling the truth.

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