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Glenn Gould

Glenn Gould was born in Toronto on 25 September 1932 into a musical family: Edvard Grieg was a first cousin of his mother's grandfather, his father was an amateur violinist, and his mother played piano and organ. Gould's mother was his only teacher until he was ten. When he was three years old, it became evident that he possessed exceptional musical aptitude, including absolute pitch and even the ability to read staff notation. At five, he began to compose, and played his own little compositions for family and friends. At the age of six Gould was taken to his first live musical performance which was Josef Hofmann's last appearance in Toronto. It created a lasting and important impression upon the boy.

At the age of ten, Gould began lessons at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Alberto Guerrero was his piano teacher; he studied organ with Frederick C. Silvester and theory with Leo Smith. Gould competed in 1944, at the age of 12, in the annual Kiwanis Music Festival and won the piano trophy. It was to be the only competition Gould would enter, for he later came to be strongly opposed to the idea of young musicians competing with each other and indeed to competition of any sort. In 1945 he passed the associateship examination as a solo performer at the Royal Conservatory, signifying a professional level of attainment. In 1946, at the age of 14, he passed the music theory examinations and was awarded a diploma with highest honors. Gould continued piano lessons with Alberto Guerrero until 1952.

Gould's first public performance was in 1945 on the organ, a concert which was reviewed under the headline "Boy, age 12, Shows Genius As Organist."

In 1946 he made his debut as soloist with orchestra at a Royal Conservatory concert performing Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto. Gould gave his first network radio recital for the CBC in 1950, beginning his long relationship with broadcasting and recording. On the evening of 11 January 1955, Gould made his debut in New York ("Debutown" as he called it) and the next day signed a recording contract with Columbia Masterworks (CBS). Gould's first recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations took place at the CBS studios in June 1955. The record won instant acclaim, became a best seller, and launched Gould's career as a fully mature international artist. Gould went on to make over 60 recordings with CBS Masterworks/Sony Classical.

In 1957 Gould toured Europe for the first time, beginning with two weeks in the Soviet Union. He thus became the first Canadian (and the first North American) to perform in the Soviet Union, and he did so - in the midst of the Cold War - to eagerly enthusiastic audiences and critics. Also during his European tour, Gould performed Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic and Herbert von Karajan, and the two artists thereafter remained loyal admirers of each other's work.

In 1960 Gould made his first appearance on American television with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. He was by then a well-known figure on Canadian television and was present regularly on the airwaves in his home country during the 1960s and 1970s.

Gould's concert career continued to grow during the early 1960s until, without any fanfare, he made his last public appearance as a pianist on 10 April 1964 in a Los Angeles recital.

This early retirement from public performance was prompted in part by a realization that the strenuous life of a touring musician was preventing him from realizing his many other interests. In fact, Gould did not think of himself primarily as a pianist; he was equally committed to writing, broadcasting, composing, conducting, and experimenting with technology.

Gould has sometimes been called a hermit and a recluse. He was not. He chose for himself a solitary existence which kept interaction at a safe distance, showing himself primarily through his recordings, broadcasts, and writings, providing self-protection but at the same time allowing a great deal of self-revelation. As he once said. he had "opted out creatively".

Glenn Gould's philosophy and the core of his identity were most clearly revealed in his broadcast/recording The Idea of North. To him, the North represented solitude, independence, reasonableness, courage, elusiveness, spirituality, strength of character, adherence to laws, moral rectitude, and peace. He was uncomfortable with the Mediterranean temperament that manifests itself in bright colors, displays of passion, and personal display.

Biography Excerpted from

Photo Source:

The Glenn Gould Archive

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Canadian Music Centre