Detail of album cover with Glenn Gould playing the Brahms Piano Concerto No.1 with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (courtesy of the WSO)
He had firm beliefs about certain things in music, but there were no idiosyncrasies about this performance of the Brahms. It was just pure music-making.
—Victor Feldbrill, former music director of the WSO
"The white gloves were really impressive," recalls Elsie Chrunyk. She played viola in the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for the 1959 performance of Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 1, with Glenn Gould as soloist. It was Gould's first performance of the work.
Just in time for the launch of its 65th season Sept. 21, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is releasing the 1959 recording as a limited edition CD on its own label, WSO Live. Scroll down to sample the archival recording.
"It was a brilliant performance," says Chrunyk. "The playing was superb. We knew this was a pretty special young man."
Victor Feldbrill was music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra at the time. He had already had a long musical relationship with Gould, performing with him on a number of occasions. Feldbrill wanted Gould to open the 1959 WSO season and invited him to play the Brahms. The work wasn't in Gould's repertoire, but the pianist jumped at the chance anyway.
Feldbrill remembers it as one of the highlights of his career. "He was magnificent in it," Feldbrill says, of Gould. "We had no problems. We had great rehearsals and the performance was outstanding, actually."
Klara Belkin was principal cellist with the orchestra for that performance. "His unique personality is what I remember," Belkin says. "He was singing louder than he played. He was all wrapped up in warm clothes, sitting on that very low chair. He was a wonderful musician, a wonderful artist."
Fanfare Magazine wrote of the performance, stating: "Gould's piano playing is passionate, full of flexibility, and he cultivates a beautiful singing line. The orchestra is well conducted by Victor Feldbrill and accompanies responsively. It's a far better performance than the famous live  New York version with Bernstein. That dour performance isn't so much slow as earthbound, with Gould sounding mechanically bound by the beats, resistant to the larger phrases that he created so eloquently in Winnipeg."
Before that performance, Bernstein famously made a speech to the New York audience absolving himself of disagreements he and Gould had regarding tempo and interpretation.
"He had firm beliefs about certain things in music, but there were no idiosyncrasies about this performance of the Brahms," Feldbrill says. "It was just pure music-making. It was great. I felt very strongly that Glenn and I really meshed in how we felt about the music and there were actually no problems.
"He really was a phenomenon. He had the work completely in his system, no ifs, ands or buts. I would imagine that Brahms would have been very pleased."
To order the disc, call (204) 949-3999.
Listen to Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor (excerpt) on CBC Music with Glenn Gould and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Victor Feldbrill .