Glenn Gould (1932-1982)
A State of Wonder
Born in Toronto, Canada, on September 25, 1932, Glenn Gould has been hailed internationally as one of the great musicians of the 20th century, and as a visionary thinker and multi-media artist who foresaw the profound impact of technology on culture and society. Initially acclaimed as a pianist of prodigious talent, Gould had a remarkable career that included recording, television, film, writing and producing radio documentaries, and composing and writing scholarly and critical work.
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Photo: Jock Carroll
Glenn Gould had become a legend as a concert pianist before he was 30. His landmark 1955 recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations was a runaway best-seller (and remains the best-selling classical instrumental recording of all time).
Despite this success, and a burgeoning international concert career, he chose to redirect his energies towards innovative ways to communicate music through the mass media. When he stopped giving public concerts in 1964 at the age of 32, his friends and closest colleagues predicted that his refusal to give live performances would destroy his career. With extraordinary foresight, however, he reinvented his career as a dedicated recording artist with CBS Records, now Sony Classical.
He influenced a new generation of performers and listeners through his illuminating interpretations of the music of a variety of composers, in particular, of Bach. His intensely personal and sometimes controversial interpretations both challenged and illuminated. They have been acclaimed as milestones in recorded music.
Gould’s passion for media and communication technology began with his long association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In addition to his numerous performances on radio, Gould broke new artistic ground with his documentaries on radio and his television essays and performances. Now republished, his writings reveal a profoundly individualistic musical insight and continue to stimulate interest among new audiences.
Gould’s untimely death on October 4, 1982, just days after his 50th birthday, was mourned by music lovers everywhere. Through his recordings and other contributions to the mass media, Glenn Gould has left a rich legacy of musical ideas and performances that find him, each year, the subject of new books, articles, plays, films and documentaries, which continue to challenge and inspire new generations.
His 75th anniversary year (2007-2008, International Year of Glenn Gould) and 80th anniversary year (2012) were commemorated by major film productions and music festivals, documentaries, symposia, museum exhibitions, broadcasts, art installations, plays and poetry, from Tokyo, Moscow, Berlin, Munich, Copenhagen, Gstaad, Paris, Rome, Dublin, London, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, New York, Mexico City and Buenos Aires.
Glenn Gould’s originality, maverick determination to chart his own course, intellectual depth and the spiritual richness of his finest performances, have marked him as a global icon of excellence.