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Glenn Gould

Glenn Gould

Glenn Herbert Gould (September 25, 1932 - October 4, 1982) was a Canadian pianist noted especially for his recordings of Johann Sebastian Bach and for giving up live performances in 1964.

Gould was born in Toronto, Ontario. After being taught piano by his mother, whose grandfather was a cousin of Edvard Grieg, Gould attended the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto from the age of ten. There he studied piano with Alberto Guerrero, organ with Frederick C. Silvester and theory with Leo Smith.

In 1945 he gave his first public performance (at the organ) and the following year 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 CBC radio came in 1950. This was the beginning of a long association with the radio and with recording in general.

On April 10 1964 Gould gave his last public performance in Los Angeles, California, to concentrate on his other interests, writing, recording, broadcasting and composing (although he produced few works as a composer).

Gould's first record came in 1955. For it he chose the Goldberg Variations by Bach. It was a piece with which he was to become closely associated, playing it in full or in part at many of his recitals, including during his trip to the Soviet Union in 1957, a trip which made him the first North American to play there. One of his very last recordings was also of the Goldbergs, the only piece which Gould recorded twice in the studio. Both recorded versions are critically acclaimed as some of the finest piano records ever made.

Gould recorded pieces by most prominent piano composers, but was outspoken in his criticism of many of them, apparently not caring for Frederic Chopin, for example. He was fond of some of the lesser known byways of the repertoire, such as early keyboard music by the likes of Orlando Gibbons, and also made critically acclaimed recordings of little known piano music by Jean Sibelius, Richard Strauss and Paul Hindemith. His recordings of the complete Arnold Schoenberg piano works are also highly thought of.

An activity for which Gould is less well known, but also critically praised, is his work in radio documentary. Particularly notable in this field is his Solitude Trilogy, consisting of The Idea of North, a meditation on the north and its people; The Latecomers, which is 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 he had fourteen minutes too much material for The Idea of North. It is this technique, combined with the skillful editing of music and the use of recordings of ordinary people in conversation, which makes his documentary work stand apart from the crowd.

Glenn Gould died in 1982 in Toronto after suffering a stroke. He is buried in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario.

In 1983, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.


Note: This profile was written in or before 2003.

Glenn Gould Facts

Birth Name Glenn Herbert Gold
OccupationMusician
BirthdaySeptember 25, 1932
SignLibra
BirthplaceToronta, Ontario, Canada
Date of deathOctober 4, 1982 (age 50)

Selected Filmography

Not available.