The piano artistry and unique personality of Glenn Gould, one of the 20th century's most thought-provoking musicians, continues to fascinate. Some 16 years after his death, his popularity remains unusually high for a performer; if anything, interest in Gould's work has risen in recent years, with the release of several films, a steady stream of newspaper articles, and new distribution of his many recordings and documentaries.
What made Gould tick? We all know about his famous recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations that catapulted him to fame as a young man in his early twenties, and his equally abrupt retirement from live concerts less than ten years later, in 1964, to devote himself to the recording studio and his various projects with the CBC.
We know he was a recluse, preferring to maintain relationships by long telephone conversations in the middle of the night, and that he would wear gloves even in warm weather. He was a hermit, yet kept an apartment at the corner of Yonge Street, the busiest street of downtown metropolitan Toronto. He had a great sense of humor, and would play-act different characters, complete with accents, for fun.
Despite all his eccentricities, there was method in his madness. Somehow, with all his hang-ups, or perhaps because of them, he produced a legacy of music-making that has enchanted generations of music-lovers. His interpretations, while admittedly off-beat and quite intentionally a departure from standard performance traditions, are so compelling that listeners around the world have had no difficulty entering the Gouldian universe. Many Gould-lovers have recounted the similar experience of being literally transfixed upon hearing one of his recordings on the radio for the first time. He truly was one of a kind.
This concert gives a representation of Gould's favorite composers, revealing the immense range and contradictions of Gould's interests and musical tastes. Pianist Michael Arnowitt has done much research on Gould, including trips to the National Library of Canada in Ottawa and the CBC Archives in Toronto to view Gould's non-commercial recordings and papers. As a special feature, a sample of Gould's own compositions, just recently published, will be included on the program. In addition to performances of the music detailed below, Michael Arnowitt will offer spoken commentary on Glenn Gould.
Here are some of the pieces on the program: