Great Performers: Glenn Gould
Those who thought of Bach's 'Goldberg' Variations as a composition better suited to scholars and specialists than to everyday music lovers were in for a surprise when a 22-year-old pianist took the classical music world by storm some 65 years ago. Glenn Gould's debut recording for Columbia Masterworks vivified the 'Goldbergs', revealing them in startling new light with his bracing tempos, strong rhythmic acuity, perky accents, humorous phrasings, breathtakingly clean articulation and dazzling technical mastery. Bach playing on the piano would never be the same again.Read more…
- Bach•Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord No. 4 in C minor BWV 1017•III. Adagio
- Beethoven•Sonata for Piano No. 8 in C minor op. 13 “Pathétique”•I. Grave – Allegro di molto e con brio
- Brahms•Ballades for Piano op. 10•3. Intermezzo. Allegro
- Bizet•Nocturne No. 1 in F major WD 49•
- Beethoven•Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in B flat major op. 19•II. Adagio
- Schoenberg•Piano Pieces op. 11 (1909)•1. Mäßige Viertel
- Bach•Die Kunst der Fuge (The Art of the Fugue) BWV 1080•Contrapunctus XI a 4
- Bach•Die Kunst der Fuge (The Art of the Fugue) BWV 1080•Contrapunctus II
- Beethoven•Sonata for Piano No. 30 in E major op. 109•I. Vivace, ma non troppo – Adagio espressivo
- Wagner•Götterdämmerung WWV 86D: Morgendämmerung und Siegfrieds Rheinfahrt (Dawn and Siegfried's Rhine Journey, Prologue) (arr. for piano)•I. Götterdämmerung WWV 86D: Morgendämmerung und Siegfrieds Rheinfahrt (Dawn and Siegfried's Rhine Journey, Prologue)
- Mendelssohn Bartholdy•Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words) op. 19b MWV SD 5•2. Andante espressivo in A minor (MWV U 80)
- Mendelssohn Bartholdy•Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words) op. 85 MWV SD 46•2. Allegro agitato in A minor (MWV U 101)
- Bach•English Suite No. 2 in A minor BWV 807•II. Allemande
- Bach•English Suite No. 2 in A minor BWV 807•III. Courante
- Bach•English Suite No. 2 in A minor BWV 807•IV. Sarabande
- Valen•Sonata for Piano No. 2 op. 38 (1940-1941)•III. Toccata. Allegro molto
- Scriabin•Quatre Préludes op. 33•1. Prélude in E major
- Scriabin•Feuillet d'album op. 58•Con delicatezza
- Ravel•La valse M 72 (1919-1920) (Version for Piano)•Mouvement de Valse viennoise
- Hindemith•Sonata for Horn and Piano (1939)•I. Mäßig bewegt
- Shostakovich•Piano Quintet in G minor op. 57•V. Finale. Allegretto
- Bach•Das Wohltemperierte Klavier (The Well-Tempered Clavier), Book I BWV 846-869•BWV 852 • Prelude No. 7 in E flat major
- Bach•Das Wohltemperierte Klavier (The Well-Tempered Clavier), Book I BWV 846-869•BWV 852 • Fugue No. 7 in E flat major
- Bach•Inventions BWV 772-786•Invention No. 1 in C major BWV 772
- Bach•Inventions BWV 772-786•Invention No. 5 in E flat major BWV 776
- Bach•Inventions BWV 772-786•Invention No. 14 in B flat major BWV 785
- Bach•Sinfonias BWV 787-801•Sinfonia No. 11 in G minor BWV 797
- Bach•Inventions BWV 772-786•Invention No. 11 in G minor BWV 782
- Bach•Fugue in E major BWV 878/2•
- Brahms•Intermezzi op. 117•Intermezzo No. 1 in E flat major. Andante moderato
Born in Toronto on 25 September 1932, Gould was at first taught by his mother, and then studied at Toronto's Royal Conservatory with Alberto Guerrero. By his late teens his artistic persona was fully formed. Right at the start he favored unusual programmes, with Bach, Byrd, Gibbons, Sweelinck, Haydn and Beethoven on one side, Schoenberg, Berg, Webern and Hindemith on the other – and virtually no Romantic music in between, save for Richard Strauss and occasional peeks into Brahms.
Gould's platform manner proved equally unorthodox. The pianist sat very low in a custom-made chair, without which, Gould claimed, he was not able to perform. He'd slump in the chair and sip water during orchestral tuttis in concertos. He swayed and gesticulated to the music, conducting with whatever hand was free at the time – and hummed along loudly. Apparently he conducted while driving his car, to the horror of those in the passenger seat.
For all of his international onstage triumphs, Gould claimed to hate concerts, and constantly spoke about retiring from the stage. After an April 1964 recital in Los Angeles, he never played another concert. Instead, Gould stepped up his recording activity and television work. He went on to create innovative radio documentaries and write numerous articles.
Gould viewed the recording studio as a creative laboratory, where he could experiment to his heart's content, and provoke audiences and critics alike with interpretations that turned received opinion upside down, from his idiosyncratic Wagner transcriptions and exaggeratedly brash Mozart Sonatas to his hair-trigger Beethoven, surprisingly ripe Brahms and "acoustic orchestrations" of Sibelius and Scriabin.
With the advent of digital technology, Gould re-recorded the 'Goldbergs' (in 1981). His darker, more contemplative vantage point and painstaking sense of architecture revealed a complete rethinking of the music. The recording brought Gould's career full circle; it was released just weeks before he suffered the stroke that ended his life on 4 October 1982. He remains one of the most charismatic, controversial and widely discussed and debated pianists of all time.