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Glenn Gould quits the concert stage

He adored Arrowroot cookies, Barbra Streisand and animals. He abhorred sunlight, the stage and airplanes. Eccentric, genius, solitary, head-strong, hypochondriac, virtuoso… all describe Glenn Herbert Gould, one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century. Gould was born on Sept. 25, 1932 in Toronto. His sudden death in 1982 at age 50 stunned the world, but his music and his legacy continue to inspire, delight and fascinate. We would like to thank the Glenn Gould Foundation for its assistance in this archival project.

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In 1964 at age 32, Glenn Gould stuns the world by walking away from the stage, declaring "the concert is dead." Gould makes no secret of his disdain for giving public performances but it is a move unheard of at the time. Gould says live concerts make him feel demeaned, like a vaudevillian.
"I detest audiences," he explains in this 1966 clip from CBC Television, "Not in their individual components but en masse... I think they are a force of evil."

Gould quitting the stage may be a result of several factors. He develops a fanatical fear of flying and an injury to his left shoulder continues to plague him. The future, Gould declares, is in the recording studio. For the reclusive perfectionist, the studio provides a womb-like atmosphere where he is free to splice and edit imperfections in his playing.

He would record several versions of a piece and then weave the best passages together. Gould calls this process "creative editing" rather than cheating. He says it is necessary to achieve the highest quality of recording possible.
Gould's controversial practices ruffle more than a few feathers. Zubin Mehta, the world famous conductor, sums up Gould's arguments saying that he is simply out of his mind.
• Glenn Gould's last public appearance as a pianist was in Los Angeles on April 10, 1964.
• Retiring from the stage so early in his career gave Gould time to concentrate on making recordings. His output was impressive, producing more than 80 recordings.
• Gould shared his view on the importance of technology with another eminent Canadian thinker: Marshall McLuhan. The two men knew and admired each other.

• Gould was always true to himself and marched to his own beat. He even happily admitted that he didn't possess a metronome, an instrument that helps musicians keep time.
• He was an avid fan of 1960s British pop sensation Petula Clark. She was the focus of a 1967 CBC Ideas documentary by Gould. His fascination grew during a drive through northern Ontario when he was forced to listen to her songs repeatedly on the radio.
Medium: Television
Program: Intertel
Broadcast Date: Nov. 9, 1966
Guest(s): Glenn Gould, Zubin Mehta
Host: Alex Trebek
Duration: 3:36

Last updated: September 26, 2012

Page consulted on October 16, 2014

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