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Glenn Gould, Toronto, 1974.Glenn Herbert Gould (September 25, 1932 – October 4, 1982) was a celebrated Canadian pianist, noted especially for his recordings of Johann Sebastian Bach's keyboard music. He gave up live performance in 1964, dedicating himself to the recording studio for the rest of his career.
2 Gould as a musician
3.1 Radio documentaries
3.2 Lost footage of a live performance
6 Awards and recognitions
8 Publications by and about Gould
10 Externe linken
Alberto Guerrero with his student Glenn Gould, 1945.Gould was born Glen Gold in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on September 25, 1932. His family was Protestant and changed its name soon after his birth, fearing that it would otherwise be mistaken as Jewish during the growing anti-Semitism of the time.
Gould's first piano teacher was his mother, whose grandfather was a cousin of Edvard Grieg. From the age of ten he began attending the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, where he studied piano with Alberto Guerrero, organ with Frederick C. Silvester and theory with Leo Smith.
In 1945, he gave his first public performance (on the organ), and the following year he made his first appearance with an orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, in a performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4. His first public recital followed in 1947, and his first recital on radio came with the CBC in 1950. This was the beginning of his long association with radio and recording.
In 1957, Gould toured the Soviet Union, becoming the first North American to play there since the Second World War. His concerts featured Bach, Beethoven, and the serial music of Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg, which previously had been suppressed in the Soviet Union during the era of Socialist Realism.
On April 10, 1964, Gould gave his last public performance in Los Angeles, California, at the Wilshire Ebell Theater. Among the pieces he performed that night were Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 30, selections from Bach's last work, the unfinished The Art of Fugue (BWV 1080), and the Piano Sonata No. 3, Op. 92 No. 4 by Ernst Krenek. For the rest of his life he eschewed live performance, focusing instead on recording, writing, and broadcasting. He died in Toronto in 1982 after suffering a massive stroke, and is buried in Toronto's Mount Pleasant Cemetery.
Gould as a musician
Gould was known for his vivid musical imagination, and listeners regarded his interpretations as ranging from brilliantly creative to, on occasion, outright eccentric. It was said of Gould that he never played a piece the same way twice.
His piano playing had great clarity, particularly in contrapuntal passages. Gould lived at a time when a heavy, grandeur-emphasizing approach to the performance of Bach, dating from the 19th century, was still very much on the musical scene. In comparison, many listeners found Gould's own approach to Bach to be refreshing, even revelatory. Gould's style arguably has strongly influenced later Bach interpreters, notably András Schiff and Angela Hewitt.
Gould had a formidable technique that enabled him to choose very fast tempos while retaining the separateness and clarity of each note. Part of the technique consisted of taking an extremely low position at the instrument, which allowed him more control over the keyboard. Charles Rosen's view is that a low position at the piano is unsuitable for playing the technically demanding music of the 19th century. Since Gould generally disliked Romantic-period piano music, this low position did not impede him. Gould's position and technique yielded excellent results with contrapuntal music, and his choice of repertoire reveals an obvious inclination to polyphony. Even his few recorded excursions into the Romantic piano literature are biased towards uncharacteristically contrapuntal works. The music of Bach formed much of his repertoire, and it is for his interpretations of Bach's works that he is most remembered.
Regarding the performance of Bach on the piano, Gould said, "the piano 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, " 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."
First page of the Goldberg Variations' Aria.In creating music, Gould much preferred the control and intimacy provided by the recording studio, and 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 his producer at CBS, Andrew Kazdin, has stated that he was the classical artist least in need of splices or dubs, Gould felt that he could produce effects in the studio not possible in live performance. 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..
Gould's first studio recording came in 1955, at Columbia Masterworks 30th Street Studios in New York City. He performed the Goldberg Variations by Johann Sebastian Bach. He had performed this piece a year earlier for a CBC broadcast, which was also made available on record. Gould became closely associated with the Goldbergs, 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, and also the last recording made in 30th Street Studios before it closed. Both studio versions are critically acclaimed. The two recordings are very different, the first highly energetic and often frenetic, the second slower and more introspective. It has been said that in his second recording of the Goldberg Variations, Gould treats the Aria and its thirty variations as one cohesive piece, while the earlier recording treats the variations as a set of separate miniatures. (It is also said, however, that the two performances bring out different aspects of what is already a cohesive structure.) The 1981 recording won two Grammy Awards in 1983, including Best Classical Album.
Gould recorded most of Bach's other keyboard works, including the complete Well-Tempered Clavier and the 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 most of the Piano Sonatas.
Gould also recorded works by many prominent piano composers, though he was outspoken in his criticism of some of them, apparently not caring for Frédéric Chopin, for example. 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 his sonatas, Gould was a harsh critic of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, claiming that his music is simple and derivative. He was fond of many lesser-known composers, such as the early keyboard music of Orlando Gibbons, who he claimed was his favorite composer. He also made critically acclaimed recordings of little-known piano music by Jean Sibelius, Richard Strauss, and Paul Hindemith. His recordings of the complete piano works of Arnold Schoenberg are also highly regarded.
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 was placed on the spacecraft Voyager 1, which is now approaching interstellar space and is the most distant human-made object from Earth.
Less well-known, but critically praised, is Gould's work in radio documentary. This work was, in part, the result of Gould's long association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for whom he produced numerous television and radio programmes. 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 which Gould called "contrapuntal radio," in which several people are heard speaking at once. According to his co-producer, Lorne Tulk, he first used this technique out of necessity, when he found that he had fourteen minutes' too much material for The Idea of North. It is this technique, combined with skillful editing of music, sounds, and the voices of people in conversation, that makes his documentary work acclaimed.
Lost footage of a live performance
In 2002, during preparations for Queen Elizabeth II's Jubilee Tour of Canada, lost footage of a Glenn Gould performance was discovered. It was part of a CBC programme containing various musical performances which had followed the Queen's 1957 television address to Canadians from Ottawa's Rideau Hall. Within this footage was a seven-minute live performance of Glenn Gould, most likely unseen for the previous 45 years, in which he played the second and third movements of Bach's Keyboard Concerto in F Minor. The Queen arrived in Canada on October 4, 2002, exactly 20 years after Gould's death.
Glenn Gould usually hummed while he played, and his recording engineers varied in how successfully they were able to exclude his voice from his recordings. Gould claimed this singing was subconscious, and increased proportionately with the inability of the piano in question to realise the music as he intended.
Gould also was known for his peculiar body movements while playing, and for his insistence on sameness. He would only play concerts while sitting on an old chair his father had made. He continued to use this chair even when the seat was completely worn through. His chair is so closely identified with him that it is shown in a place of honour in a glass case at the National Library of Canada.
Gould was so afraid of being cold that he wore heavy clothing, including gloves, even in warm places. He also disliked social functions. He had an aversion to 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, Willilam 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 due to the incident; he even went on to explore the possibility of litigation against Steinway & Sons if his apparent injuries were permanent. When he was still performing publicly, he performed in concert with the Cleveland Orchestra, after which conductor George Szell remarked, "No doubt about it—that nut's a genius".
Gould was not without a sense of humour, as in his creation of numerous alter egos for satirical, humorous or didactic purposes. From the liner notes to Bach Partitas, Preludes and Fugues:
"David Johnson", of course, was none other than Gould himself, the first in a long line of more than two dozen fictional characters whom Gould was to impersonate during the coming years, and of whom the most famous are the German composer "Karlheinz Klopweisser", the English conductor "Sir Nigel Twitt-Thornwaite", and the American pianist "Theodore Slutz".
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."
Early in his life Gould suffered a spine injury which prompted his physicians to prescribe him an assortment of painkillers and other drugs. His continued use of prescribed medications throughout his career is speculated to have had a deleterious effect on his health. He was highly concerned about his health throughout his life, such as his high blood pressure, and was always concerned about the safety of his hands.
Dr. Timothy Maloney (PhD), the director of the Music Division of the National Library of Canada, has written about and discussed the possibility that Gould had Asperger syndrome, a disorder related to autism. This idea was first tentatively proposed by Gould's biographer, Dr. Peter Ostwald (MD), though Ostwald died before he could develop this theory. (The diagnosis of Asperger syndrome did not exist in Gould's lifetime.) Gould's eccentricities, such as rocking and humming, isolation and difficulty with social interaction, and the uncanny focus and technical ability he displayed in music-making, can be related to the symptoms displayed by persons with Asperger's, according to Maloney.
Others, such as Dr. Helen Mesaros (MD), a Toronto psychiatrist and author, dismiss this theory as post-mortem diagnosis, based on circumstantial evidence, by people without medical training. Mesaros wrote a rebuttal to Maloney's paper, suggesting that there are ample psychological and emotional explanations for Gould's eccentricities, and that it is not necessary to resort to neurological explanations.
Awards and recognitions
Glenn Gould was the recipient of many honors during his lifetime and posthumously. In 1983, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. He won four Grammy Awards:
1974—Grammy Award for Best Album Notes - Classical: Glenn Gould (notes writer) for Hindemith: Sonatas for Piano (Complete) performed by Glenn Gould;
1983—Grammy Award for Best Classical Album: Samuel H. Carter (producer) & Glenn Gould for Bach: The Goldberg Variations;
1983—Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without orchestra) for Bach: The Goldberg Variations;
1984—Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without orchestra) for Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 12 & 13.
The Glenn Gould Foundation was established in Toronto in 1983 to honour Gould and preserve his memory. Among other activities, the foundation awards the Glenn Gould Prize every three years to "an individual who has earned international recognition as the result of a highly exceptional contribution to music and its communication, through the use of any communications technologies." The prize consists of CAD$50,000 and an original work by a Canadian artist.
The Glenn Gould Studio at the Canadian Broadcasting Centre in Toronto was named after him.
Video of the 1981 Goldberg Variations
Prelude and Fugue in C major from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1 by Johann Sebastian Bach (excerpt) (file info) — play in browser (beta)
The C major prelude from the first book of the WTC is one of the most famous examples of Gould's idiosyncratic playing. The piece is usually played legato, but here each arpeggio is played half-legato and half-staccato.
Allegro Moderato from Piano Sonata No. 10 in C major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (excerpts from two recordings) (file info) — play in browser (beta)
Compare the fast-paced, almost violent 1970 version from the "Complete Piano Sonatas" set (played first) and the gentle, lush 1958 interpretation (played second).
Contrapunctus V from The Art of Fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach (excerpt) (file info) — play in browser (beta)
The only organ recordings Gould made were the first 9 parts of Bach's The Art of Fugue. His organ playing is as unusual as his piano playing; the instrument is played in a "staccato" manner somewhat reminiscent of his piano technique, and without pedal.
Gigue from Suite in A major HWV 426, by Georg Friederich Handel (excerpt) (file info) — play in browser (beta)
Gould recorded several Handel suites and a few pieces from JS Bach's WTC on a Wittmayer harpsichord. The somewhat muffled sound of this 20th century instrument is very different compared to modern recordings that are made using copies of old harpsichords.
Publications by and about Gould
Bazzana, Kevin (1997) Glenn Gould: the performer in the work. Clarendon, ISBN 0-19-816656-7
Bazzana, Kevin (2003) Wonderous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould. Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-517440-2
Bernhard, Thomas (1991) The Loser. A fictional account of a relationship with Glenn Gould and Vladimir Horowitz. University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-04388-6
Canning, Nancy (1992) A Glenn Gould Catalog. Greenwood Press, ISBN 0-313-27412-6
Carroll, Jock (1995) Glenn Gould : some portraits of the artist as a young man. Stoddart, ISBN 0-7737-2904-6
Cott, Jonathan (2005) Conversations with Glenn Gould. University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-11623-9. Interview in two parts given by Glenn Gould to the author over the phone in 1974. Originally published in Rolling Stone magazine.
Friedrich, Otto (1989) Glenn Gould : A Life and Variations. Random House, ISBN 0-679-73207-1
National Library of Canada (1992) Descriptive Catalogue of the Glenn Gould Papers. ISBN 0-660-57327X
Ostwald, Peter (1997) Glenn Gould : the ecstasy and tragedy of genius. Norton, ISBN 0-393-04077-1
Page, Tim (1990) Glenn Gould Reader. Vintage, ISBN 0-679-73135-0
Payzant, Geoffrey (1992) Glenn Gould Music and Mind. Key Porter, ISBN 1-55013-439-6
Robert, John PL and Ghyslaine Guertin (1992) Glenn Gould : selected letters. Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-540799-7
Rosen, Charles (2002) Piano Notes: The World of the Pianist. The Free Press, ISBN 0-7432-4312-9. [Rosen’s comment about dubbing a recording of Liszt appears in the first chapter].
Gould's recorded music has been featured in many other films, both during his life and after his death. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) contains the Aria from his 1981 recording, and indeed the original novel of the same name has Dr. Hannibal Lecter, an aficionado of The Goldberg Variations, requesting a recording while he dines in prison. The Wars (1983) features Gould playing music of Richard Strauss and Johannes Brahms. The Triplets of Belleville (2003) includes a segment in which an animated Glenn Gould with greatly exaggerated mannerisms plays Prelude No. 2 in C minor from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Book One. He contributed to the screenplay of the experimental PBS TV movie The Idea of North, produced and directed by Judith Pearlman.
Glenn Gould On The Record and Glenn Gould Off he Record (both 1959). Documentaries. National Film Board of Canada.
Conversations with Glenn Gould (1966). Filmed conversations between Glenn Gould and Humphrey Burton on classical composers. BBC.
Spheres (1969). Animated film directed by René Jodoin and Norman McLaren, with music by Bach played by Glenn Gould. National Film Board of Canada.
The Idea of North (film)(1970) Produced and directed by Judith Pearlman; based on Gould's original audio version.
Slaughterhouse-Five (1972). Directed by George Roy Hill; based on the Kurt Vonnegut novel. Musical soundtrack arranged and performed by Glenn Gould. Universal Pictures.
Music and Terminology, Chemins de la Musique (1973-76). Glenn Gould talking about and performing music by Bach, Schoenberg, Scriabin, Gibbons, Byrd, Berg, and Wagner. Series of four films directed by Bruno Monsaingeon.
The Terminal Man (1974). Directed by Mike Hodges; based on a Michael Crichton novel. Soundtrack features Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg Variations. Warner Bros.
Radio as Music (1975). Film adaptation of an article by John Jessop (in collaboration with Gould) on Glenn Gould's contrapuntal radio documentary techniques.
Bach Series (1979-91). Series of three films of Glenn Gould talking about and performing the music of Bach: Goldberg Variations, Variations: Chromatic Fantasy, Partita No 4, and excerpts from The Well-Tempered Clavier and Art of the Fugue. Clasart.
The Goldberg Variations : Glenn Gould Plays Bach (1981). The Bach Series directed by Bruno Monsaingeon.
The Wars (1983). Directed by Robin Philips; based on the novel by Timothy Findley.
Variations on Glenn Gould. Documentary on Glenn Gould at a recording session, making a radio documentary and in the Ontario northland.
Les Variacions Gould (1992). Directed by Manuel Huerga, documentary coproduced by Ovideo TV about Glenn Gould in the 10th anniversary of his death. This film has received several awards and has been finalist in the International Visual Music Awards of Cannes '93.
Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (1993). Directed by François Girard.
Glenn Gould : The Russian Journey (2002). The 1957 trip in the USSR and Gould's performances in Moscow and Leningrad. Extasis (2003). Documentary featuring Glenn Gould in concert; also, interviews with acquaintances.
Glenn Gould : Life & Times (2003). DVD documentary. Contains performances, sessions and interviews. Also a look at his [still-playable] grand piano and chair.
Glenn Gould : The Alchemist (2003). DVD documentary footage of Gould's performances and interviews with Gould about his music and life.
Glenn Gould : au-delà du temps (2005). A French/Canadian documentary by Bruno Monsaingeon, 107 minutes, first aired on arte, May 13, 2006, Winner of Fipa d’or 2006, catégorie musique et spectacles.
Gould's prowess was referenced (and his recordings used) in the motion picture When Will I Be Loved, written and directed by James Toback.
Solitude, Exile and Ecstasy was a BBC Radio 3 drama broadcast in 1991. It features Gould as a character, and is structured by sequential selections from his 1981 performance of JS Bach's Goldberg Variations.
Gould was one of the inaugural inductee's on Canada's Walk of Famein 1998.
Gould was left-handed.
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