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On This Day… October 4

Another performer today, and this time one who is most widely known for his two fantastic recordings of the same piece – both at the beginning and the end of his career. However, he was an incredible pianist in all styles of music. Today, we look at Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, who died on this day in 1982.

Born in 1932 in Toronto, Canada, he began learning piano from his mother until the age of 10, whn he began attending the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. In 1945, he gave his first public performance, on organ, and the following made his concerto debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto number 4. His first public recital was in 1947, and in 1950 performed his first recital for broadcast through radio station CBC.

As a pianist, Gould was known for an exceptionally vivid musical imagination, with critics describing his interpretations from brilliantly creative to outright eccentric. His piano playing had great clarity, especially in contrapuntal passages. His technique was formidable, allowing him to choose very fast tempos, whilst retaining the separation and clarity that those notes required.

After 1964, Gould stopped public performances, devoting himself to recording instead. His first major recording was from 1955, and was his first recording of the Goldberg Variations. This piece would accompany him for his entire life, often playing parts of it in recitals, as well as recording it in full again in 1981. Both are very different recordings. The first is more frenetic and highly energetic, while the second is more introspective, treating the air and thirty variations as a complete work, as opposed to separate movements.

Gould was full of eccentricities in his performances, most notably his apparent sub-conscious singing along with the melody while playing. Some critics have said that listeners would “find the groans and croons intolerable” where as personally I think it shows that he has been completely consumed by the music.

There is nothing else that I could include as a video apart from Gould performing the Goldberg variations. I especially like this recording, as you can see Gould singing along, almost taking joy from every note and phrase.

Variations 1-7

Variations 8-14

Variation 25

Variation 26-30 & Aria Da Capo

0 thoughts on “On This Day… October 4

  1. Hello from Canadia! I happened on your blog via Twitter.

    Re: Gould. He is something of a national hero here and you can’t talk much about classical music without his name being brought up.

    There’s even a statue of him outside our Beeb equivalent, the CBC.

    I’m partial to the 1955 Goldberg myself but either way they are truly idiosyncratic performances and a joy to listen to.

    All the best,

    Miss Mussel

  2. Welcome Miss Mussel, always pleased to have a new reader, especially from the beautiful land of Canadia, ay. I have to admit, I haven’t heard his 1955 recording, but I do have a copy of the 1981 recording. Though if anyone’s willing to send me the 1955 recording my way I’d be most happy to receive it 🙂

  3. You can listen to the aria here and it looks like someone has gone to the trouble of creating individual videos that compare each variation if that’s not too tedious a way to hear the earlier set.

    All the best with your studies,

    Miss Mussel

    PS I run a quiz each week and there are prizes in the form of Archiv Music vouchers, so you might want to pop by. The 1955 Goldberg could be yours!

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