The Pianist Glenn Gould (1932–1982)

Glenn Gould in rehearsal, 1974. © Library and Archives Canada / Walter Curtin / PA-137052

For the week of Monday April 5, 2021

On April 10, 1964, acclaimed pianist Glenn Gould (né Gold) gave his last public concert in Los Angeles, when he was only 31 years old, dedicating the rest of his performing career to studio recordings and broadcasting.

His father was a music lover and his mother, from whom Glenn began taking lessons at the age of four, was a piano teacher. After years of perseverance and intensive practice, Gould was admitted to the Toronto Conservatory of Music, now the Royal Conservatory of Music, where he mastered music theory, piano, and the organ. He performed professionally in concert for the first time as a teenager at the Eaton Auditorium, Toronto. His remarkable technique, which emphasized speed and dexterity, earned him numerous favourable reviews

In 1955, following a public performance in New York City, Gould received an exclusive contract with the Columbia Records label. He released his first album a year later. Bach: the Goldberg Variations was a great success, helping to cement his reputation as an unconventional pianist because of his unusual repertoire and original, even controversial, interpretations. He was known for his eccentricity, using an adjustable wooden chair, made by his father, whenever he performed in concert, and wearing gloves to perform.

Between 1956 and 1964, Gould toured Canada and internationally, while also making radio and television appearances. Shy and reclusive, he preferred studio recording to concerts and was one of the first musicians to explore the possibilities of electronic media. After his final concert in 1964, he decided to devote more time to broadcasting, giving and commenting on recitals, and discussing a variety of musical and non-musical matters. He created “contrapuntal radio” documentaries, which included voices, sound effects, and musical samples, all blending together as one tapestry of sound. In addition, he spent time in the recording studio and wrote, composed, and conducted orchestras.

After his sudden death in 1982, several of his pianos were put on public exhibition and a foundation was created in his name. Much of his work has since been republished and he has received a number of posthumous awards.

Glenn Gould is designated a national historic person in recognition of his great contribution to music. The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) advises the Government of Canada on the commemoration of National Historic Persons—individuals who have made unique and enduring contributions to the history of Canada.

The National Program of Historical Commemoration relies on the participation of Canadians in the identification of places, events and persons of national historic significance. Any member of the public can nominate a topic for consideration by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Information on how to participate in this process is available here: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/culture/clmhc-hsmbc/ncp-pcn

 

 

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