November 2016

The Remarkable Mr. Gould

Classical pianist Glenn Gould had his own way of playing and thinking about music.

During his relatively short career as a live performer, Gould met with acclaim for his dazzling technique and puzzlement for his unusual opinions and habits. As we mentioned in our November 2016 Icon story, he was notorious for humming loudly while playing and for dressing as if it were winter all year round. He also insisted on bringing his own wooden chair with him to concerts. Built for him by his father, its seat was 14 inches above the floor, considerably lower than typical piano benches.

Gould gave his last public concert in 1964. In this interview, recorded two years later, Gould talks about why he hates playing in front of audiences and prefers working in the recording studio. Toward the end of the clip, conductor Zubin Mehta disagrees with the pianist’s opinion, to put it mildly.

This clip from a British documentary called The Art of Piano features more offbeat commentary from Gould, as well as partial performances of J.S. Bach’s Partita No. 2, Ravel’s La Valse, and Bach’s Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D Minor (the latter with Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic).

Finally, here’s Gould in the late 1970s playing more of his beloved Bach: the Fugue in E Major from Book 2 of The Well-Tempered Clavier.