Glenn Gould From A To Z (by Michael Stegemann)

A B C D E F G H I M N O P R S T
© Glenn Gould Estate

ROMANTICISM

Schubert and Schumann, Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninov – Gould shied away from the core Romantic repertory and avoided it like the plague. We could almost describe him as an anti-Horowitz, a pianist who felt only profound scepticism and loathing of the “hedonistic” aspect of this “pianists’ music”. This, at least, was one side of his character. The other finds expression in his recordings of Schumann’s Piano Quartet, of Liszt’s transcriptions of Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth Symphonies and of a number of Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words, recordings that reveal Gould from an altogether different angle: “You know what an incurable romantic I am anyway.” Readers inclined to dismiss this remark would do well to listen to his recordings of Wagner and Strauss and, above all, his Brahms: as he himself put it, the ten Intermezzos that he recorded in 1960 were “the sexiest interpretation you’ve ever heard”.

RADIO

Gould denied that he was ever a full-time professional pianist: “I am a man of communication, a composer and a Canadian writer who plays the piano in his spare time!” It was one of his typically provocative statements, but one that also contained a grain of truth, for there is no doubt that the radio above all played a major role in his life: “The fact that in most forms of broadcasting a microphone six feet away stands as surrogate for an audience has always been, for me, prominent among the attractions of the medium.” Conversely, his idea of Radio as Music was nothing if not revolutionary: the contrapuntally layered collages of interviews, noises and music that make up his three docudramas on northern Canada (The Idea of North, The Latecomers and The Quiet in the Land) are still regarded as pioneering works in the art of the radio play and of broadcasting in general.