Glenn Gould: The Performer in the Work: A Study in Performance Practice

By Kevin Bazzana | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

THE CANADIAN PIANIST, broadcaster, writer, and composer Glenn Herbert Gould was born in Toronto on 25 September 1932. (The family's original surname, Gold, was changed in 1939 or 1940.1) He was found to have perfect pitch at the age of 3, and other unusual musical talents--a photographic memory, gifts for sight-reading and improvisation--soon became apparent. Both his parents were amateur musicians, and until the age of 10 he studied the piano with his mother. In 1940, he began studies at the Toronto (later Royal) Conservatory of Music, and received his Associate diploma in 1946. He studied music theory 1940-7 with Leo Smith, organ 1942-9 with Frederick C. Silvester, and piano 1943-52 with the Chilean-born pianist Alberto Guerrero ( 1886- 1959). He first performed in public on the piano in 1938, on the organ in 1945; he first played with an orchestra at a Conservatory concert in 1946, and made his professional solo-recital and concerto débuts in 1947. By the early 1950s, Gould had acquired a considerable reputation within Canada as a concert artist. In 1950, he began performing on radio, and in 1952 on television, for the CBC, with whom he would work for the next three decades. His first commercial recording was made in 1951 and released in 1953 on the Hallmark label. Between 1953 and 1963, he performed often at the annual summer Shakespeare festival at Stratford, Ontario; from 1961 to 1964, he served as one of its directors of music. Even as a child, and especially in his teens, he was active as a composer, occasionally performing his own works in public; these early works, most in a late-Romantic or twelve- tone idiom, include piano pieces and a bassoon sonata. His only major work is a long, one-movement string quartet, composed 1953-5, published as Opus 1 in 1957, and recorded several times. Once established internationally as a concert and recording artist, he composed only sporadically, completing few works.

In January 1955, Gould made his American début, with recitals in Washington, DC, and New York. His unorthodox programme ( Sweelinck, Gibbons, Bach, late Beethoven, Berg, and Webern), distinctive style, idiosyncratic interpretations, and flamboyant platform manner immediately marked him as an iconoclast. The day after his New York début, he was offered a contract with the Columbia Masterworks (later CBS Masterworks) label, for which he recorded exclusively for the rest of his life. His American début recitals, and the popular and critical acclaim that greeted his first recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations, released in 1956, launched his international concert career. For the next nine years, he toured

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1
See Beckwith, 'Master Glen Gold'3; and Ostwald, 35-6.

-1-

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Glenn Gould: The Performer in the Work: A Study in Performance Practice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS vii
  • Contents xiii
  • CONTENTS OF CD xiv
  • LIST OF PLATES xv
  • Contents xvi
  • NOTES ON FORMAT xviii
  • Abbreviations xxii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - PREMISSES 9
  • 1 - Aesthetics and Repertoire 11
  • 2 - The Role of the Performer 36
  • 3 - Performance as Discourse 85
  • Part II - PRACTICES 129
  • 4 - Gould and the Piano 131
  • 5 - Counterpoint 142
  • 6 - Rhythm 160
  • 7 - Dynamics 204
  • 8 - Articulation and Phrasing 215
  • 9 - Ornamentation 228
  • 10 - Recording Technology 238
  • Conclusion 253
  • LIST OF GOULD PERFORMANCES CITED 269
  • BIBLIOGRAPHY. 277
  • Index 291
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