Friday, 16 November 2012

Eccentric Pianists: Glenn Gould - Genius and Legend

While researching some performance diploma repertoire, I first heard some fabulous recordings of Bach's Preludes and Fugues, when I suddenly heard a hum, as if someone was singing alongside the music. I began to doubt my MP3 player at the time, was the recording faulty a ghost in the machine, or picking up a radio signal of someone humming? I played the track again, and yes, the humming was still there. It turned out the Bach keyboard concerto recording was Glenn Gould, and his humming during his recordings.

 Gould, legendary interpreter of Bach, is also featured on many great pianists' compilations. His artistry was chosen to represent humankind. Gould's recording of the Prelude and Fugue in C (Book II) of Bach's Well Tempered Clavier featured on the Voyager Golden Record. (which is travelling through space at the moment).

Genius and eccentricity, the two terms go hand in hand it seems.  Think of Einstein, a classic example, he had the same suit in his wardrobe, in fact 7 exact copies (suit, shirt, shoes and tie), so that he wouldn't have spend time deciding what to wear Gould would immerse his arms in hot water to "warm up" before a performance. . The video excerpt below  from the documentary - the Art of the Piano,  how many of Gould's trademark eccentricities can you spot?

You may have picked up at least 3 of the following 4:

  1. Humming during playing 
  2. Self-Conducting
  3. Finger Tapping: a technique from his teacher Alberto Guerrero 
  4. Very low posture - with arms level to the keyboard

Just listen to this sublime performance of Bach's F Minor concerto and you'll appreciate the Artistry of Gould:

JS Bach in Concerto number 5 in F Minor 

There's conjecture that Gould had aspergers, autism, where high levels of ability in music or maths are associated, which may account for his eccentric behaviour. As we know Bach's music, Gould's specialty is very mathematical! No matter the eccentricities, Gould's music has been recorded and documented for posterity to inspire future generations.

Further Reading

1 comment:

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