Thursday, 9 July 2009


Canadian Pianist Glenn Gould Playing Concert Grand Piano as He Records Bach's Goldberg Variations in Recording Studio

Glenn Gould's landmark 1955 GOLDBERG VARIATIONS, was as startling a debut in music as any, comparable to Bob Dylan or the Beatles. Glenn Gould represents pure intellectual energy as well as a particular kind of quirky secular culture that was all the rage in the supposedly conformist '50s. This was the age of Holden Caufield and James Dean, not to mention Thelonious Monk and Jackson Pollock. Gould fits in with all of them, far more than any other '50s classical musician, all of whom were merely bourgeois highbrows (with the notable exception of Maria Callas and maybe Toscanini). He also delivered on the promise of this debut throughout his career. While he may have declined physically, there was no concurrent artistic leveling off. Even his failures, like his series of trashed Mozart sonatas, are as fascinating as car wrecks.
- Joe Sarno

I first encountered a vintage print of this image at G.Ray Hawkins' Gallery on Melrose in Los Angeles. It was probably the late 1980s. I've always admired Glenn Gould's landmark recordings of Bach's Goldberg Variations. I thought this picture captured some of Gould's eccentric genius. If you look closely, you'll notice that Gould has kicked off his shoes and is playing the piano in his stockinged feet, hunched over the keyboard in that inimical way he had. But there are two pairs of shoes! I always wondered: did Gould start recording earlier and go home that night in just his socks, only to return the day this picture was taken, wearing a new, second pair of shoes??

The print of this photograph ranks high on my list of The Pictures That Got Away. I should have bought this print on the spot, but for a variety of reasons (excuses, excuses), I didn't. But I know where it ended up. Almost a decade later, I discovered this very print up in Toronto, Canada. I always thought it was fitting that this image of Gould returned to Canada.
- Peter Hay Halpert

Wednesday, 8 July 2009


Glenn Gould Testing 4 Steinways

Glenn Gould's eccentricities and perfectionism were legendary, a part and parcel of his musical and artistic genius. His need to recreate the music he heard in his brain led him on a quest for the perfect piano, as responsive to his intuition as it was to his fingertips. In April 1957, Gould visited the Steinway factory in Astoria, Queens, and, after playing every piano in the showroom, had the final four contenders sent over to the 30th Street Studio for a more intensive audition. Don Hunstein caught the maestro, in one of the low-slung stool-like chairs he traveled with, hunched over the keys in search of the perfect sound.