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PBS Documentary On The Great But Wildly Eccentric Canadian Pianist Glenn Gould

  I came across the absorbing PBS documentary on the legendary Canadian pianist Glenn Gould (1932-1982 ) by chance the other night ,and I urge you to check for repetitions of it later this week . It was part of the Great Americans series even though Gould was not American .

  Glenn Gould was no ordinary piano virtuoso ,and he was much more than a mere pianist .  He was a thinker,writer,composer and  all around character . His eccentricities became legendary in the world of classical music, almost as much as his  probing mucinianship and phenomenal keyboard technique .  He left a wide variety of brilliant and often provocative recordings of piano works ranging from Haydn,Mozart and Beethoven to Schoenberg ,Hindemith and other leading 20th century composers for what is now the Sony Classical label, formerly known as Columbia records .

  A child prodigy like many other great pianists, he rose to international fame in his 20s ,performing all over Europe,America and elsewhere to great acclaim , and then abandoned live performing  at the age of only 31 for a solitary life in his native Canada where he made numerous brilliant but often controversial recordings and became involved with other projects such as radio documentaries for the CBC on a variety of topics,not always musical .

  The life of a touring pianist became intolerable for him ; he hated the experience of constant travel ,living in hotel rooms and the pressures of performing under often less than ideal conditions .  He loved the experience of recording , where he could with the help of engineers and record priducers , create idealized performances .  This was the very opposite of the attitude of many other great classical musicians, who feel that recordings are artificial products,carefully edited and lacking in the spontaneity of a live performance and the inspiration of the moment .

  Gould was a notorious hypochondriac  who often canceled performances , wore heavy winter clothing even in Summer , hated to be touched physically and may have even had a mild autistic condition known as Asperger's syndrome, in which a person may be brilliant but lacking in the abilty to socialize normally with others, according to some psychiatrists and other experts . 

  He had friends, but lived a pretty much solitary life and never married , although he did have women friends , and rumors that he may have bennn homosexual have been shown to be false .  He died of a stroke at the tragically early age of 50 , and his many recordings remain bestsellers on CD to this day, including the classic recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations from the late 1950s which is still very much available and launched his legendary recording career .

  Gould's performances could be eccentric and even perverse ; he sometimes played fast and loose with the composer's written instructions and chose strange tempos either much slower or faster than other pianists , but you could never call his performaces dull !  There are biographies and other writings on him by such well-known writers as Kevin Bazzana, Otto Friedrich, Peter Ostwald and Geoffrey Payzant , and a fascinating collection of his thought-provoking essays on music . 

Posted: Dec 28 2010, 05:50 PM by the horn | with no comments
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