Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Glenn Gould

Dr. Bob Prescribes – Mozart, Complete Piano Sonatas

This is an admittedly odd post. I’m not recommending Gould’s complete Mozart Piano Sonatas as a “principal set”; it’s just too quirky. For principal sets, I would heartily recommend Ronald Brautigam’s, performed on a fortepiano (on BIS); or Mitsuko Uchida’s recorded on a modern Steinway (on Decca). Typical of pretty much any Glenn Gould performance, his recording of Mozart’s Piano Sonatas might best be labelled as “Glenn Gould plays Mozart,” rather than as “Mozart, as played by Glenn Gould.” Nevertheless, Gould’s Mozart – like pretty much everything he played – can be compelling. Which makes Glenn Gould’s graceless carping about Mozart being a bad composer all the more curious. Gould’s infamous statement bears repeating: “Mozart died too late rather than too soon.” A quick story, then on to Gould’s video. Beethoven and Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C minor, K. 491 The first movement of Beethoven’s own Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37 of 1803 was inspired by Mozart’s Concerto in C Minor, K. 491 of 1786. Mozart’s concerto was a work that Beethoven often performed and adored. Beethoven once attended a rehearsal of Mozart’s C minor Piano Concerto with his friend, the pianist-composer Johann Baptist Cramer (1771-1858). […]

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Music History Monday: In a Class by Himself

We mark the birth on September 25, 1932 – 91 years ago today – of the pianist Glenn Herbert Gold, in Toronto, Canada.  (Yes, the surname on “Glenn Gould’s” birth certificate is “Gold.”  When the young guy was seven years old his family began informally using the surname “Gould,” though Glenn himself never formally changed his name from “Gold” to “Gould.”)  He died there in Toronto on October 4, 1982, at the age of fifty. Superlatives Cut Two Ways! I would observe that ordinarily, when we refer to someone as being “in a class by themselves,” it is usually understood as a compliment: that someone is “one of a kind”; “unique”; “sui generis”; “without equal”; sans pareil”; and so forth. But in fact, superlatives such as these can cut two ways, and are consequently not necessarily complimentary in their entirety.   For example. Tyrus Raymond “Ty” Cobb (1886-1961), the so-called “Georgia Peach” was – as I trust we all know – a baseball player during the Deadball Era (circa 1900-1920).  He was a transcendent baseball genius (as you know, I do not use the “g-word” – genius – lightly); he was truly “one of a kind”; “unique”; “sui generis”; “without […]

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Music History Monday: One of a Kind

Today we celebrate the birth of the pianist Glenn Herbert Gold. (That is the name on his birth certificate. The family began using the name “Gould” informally, when Glenn was seven years old, but he never formally changed his name to “Gould.”) He was born 85 years ago today – on September 25, 1932 – in Toronto, Ontario in Canada. Gould’s life and career are easy enough to outline. Born into a well-to-do family, his over-the-top musical precocity was recognized and nurtured by his mother, who was a piano teacher. He entered the Royal Conservatory of Music (today the Toronto Conservatory) at the age of 10; he graduated at 13. He made his debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 when he was 13; he played his first major solo recital at 15; and performed his first radio recital on CBC at 18. In 1955, at the age of 23, Gould made his recording debut with CBS, when he recorded Bach’s Goldberg Variations at Columbia’s 30th Street Studio in New York City between June 10 and June 16. The album was released in January, 1956 and it was a sensation: it became Columbia’s best-selling Classical […]

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