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Glenn Gould is a rising star

The Story

The only child of Russell "Bert" and Florence Gould, young Glenn tends to be a loner, preferring the keyboard over playing ball.  Florence, Glenn's first piano teacher, is first to notice her son's musical genius. He has perfect pitch by age three and spends hours practicing the piano. So much so that when he is 12, his mother and his teacher, the Chilean-born pianist and conductor Alberto Guerrero, limit Glenn's playing to four hours a day.  Gould is very fond of the family cottage on Lake Simcoe, north of Toronto. He loves going for walks, boating with his English setter Nicky and giving impromptu concerts for his family and friends on the turn-of-the-century Chickering piano.

News of Gould's talent spreads and it isn't long before he starts performing in public. In December 1945 at age 13 Gould gives his first concert, not on the piano but on the organ. It's a huge success. One review declares, "Boy... Shows Genius As Organist." By the time Gould makes his much-anticipated American debut in 1955 in Washington D.C., he has gained quite a reputation as a dazzling pianist with a unique, uncompromising style. David Oppenheim of Columbia Records (now Sony Classical) is one of thousands who are awe-struck by Gould's talent. Oppenheim signs the 22-year-old to an exclusive recording contract the day after hearing him play in New York. A year later Gould records his famous Goldberg Variations, which catapults him into the international spotlight.  By the time CBC host Gordon Burwash interviews Gould at his cottage in 1957, the young pianist is getting some much-needed rest after a successful concert tour of Germany, Austria and Russia. With his performance in Moscow in May 1957, Gould becomes the first North American pianist and the first Canadian musician to appear in the Soviet Union after the Second World War. Despite Gould's successful European debut it's evident in the interview that the tour has had a heavy physical and psychological toll on the young pianist.

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Newsmagazine
Broadcast Date: June 23, 1957
Guest(s): Glenn Gould
Host: Gordon Burwash
Duration: 2:53

Did You know?

• Glenn Gould was born into a musical family: Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg was a first cousin of his mother's grandfather. Both of Gould's parents sang. His father was an amateur violinist and his mother played the piano and the organ.
• Gould rarely participated in sports. Even as a young boy he had the tendency to avoid any balls that came his way, all in an effort to protect his hands.

• When Gould was 13 his friend and next-door neighbour Robert Fulford, later a well-known Canadian journalist, wrote about the budding pianist in the school newspaper. In the article, Gould is quoted saying "popular music is terrible," and that he is a "confirmed bachelor."
• Glenn Gould was left-handed.

• Even at age three, Gould's father recalled how his son would sit at the piano, play a single note and listen intently as it faded away. Later Gould demonstrated his perfect pitch by playing tunes he heard only once on the radio.
• The Chickering piano at Gould's cottage on Lake Simcoe is currently on display at the Glenn Gould Studio in the Canadian Broadcasting Centre in Toronto.

• J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations is one of the most difficult pieces ever composed for the keyboard, often taking musicians a lifetime to master. It consists of 30 variations on the popular 17th century slow dance called a saraband.


Glenn Gould: Variations on an Artist more