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Bach: Prelude number 1 In C Major. Glenn Gould. With "dancing cigarette" vIDeo.

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Published on Jun 27, 2009

Gould was known for his vivid musical imagination, and listeners regarded his interpretations as ranging from brilliantly creative to, on occasion, outright eccentric. His piano playing had great clarity, particularly in contrapuntal passages. He was considered a child prodigy, and in adulthood was also described as a musical phenomenon. As he played, he often swayed his torso, almost always in a clockwise motion.[23]

When Gould was around ten years old, he injured his back as a result of a fall from a boat ramp on the shore of Lake Simcoe.[24] This incident is almost certainly not related to his father's subsequent construction for him of an adjustable-height chair, which he used for the rest of his life. This famous chair was designed so that Gould could sit very low at the keyboard with the object of pulling down on the keys rather than striking them from above—a central technical idea of his teacher, Alberto Guerrero,[25] seen in the photograph (right) from 1945. Gould's mother urged the young Gould to sit up straight at the keyboard,[26] which is how we see him with Guerrero in 1945 before he had fully developed his mature technique.

Gould developed a formidable technique. It enabled him to choose very fast tempos while retaining the separateness and clarity of each note. His extremely low position at the instrument, arguably, permitted more control over the keyboard. Gould showed considerable technical skill in performing and recording a wide repertoire including virtuosic and romantic works, such as his own arrangement of Ravel's La Valse and Liszt's transcriptions of Beethoven's fifth and sixth symphonies. Gould worked from a young age with his teacher Alberto Guerrero on a technique known as finger-tapping, a method of training the fingers to act more independently from the arm.[27]

Gould claimed he almost never practiced on the piano, preferring to study music by reading it rather than playing it, a technique he had also learned from Guerrero. His manual practicing focussed on articulation, rather than basic facility. He may have spoken ironically about his practicing, but there is evidence that on occasion, he did practice quite hard, sometimes using his own drills and techniques.[28]

He stated that he didn't understand the requirement of other pianists to continuously reinforce their relationship with the instrument by practicing many hours a day.[29] It seems that Gould was able to practice mentally without access to an instrument, and even took this so far as to prepare for a recording of Brahms piano works without ever playing them until a few weeks before the recording sessions. This is all the more staggering considering the absolute accuracy and phenomenal dexterity exhibited in his playing. Gould's large repertoire also demonstrated this natural mnemonic gift. Gould had a pronounced aversion to what he termed a "hedonistic" approach to the piano repertoire, performance, and music generally. For Gould, "hedonism" in this sense denoted a superficial theatricality, something to which he felt Mozart, for example, became increasingly susceptible later in his career.[32] He associated this drift towards hedonism with the emergence of a cult of showmanship and gratuitous virtuosity on the concert platform in the nineteenth century and later. The institution of the public concert, he felt, degenerated into the "blood sport" with which he struggled, and which he ultimately rejected.[33]
Gould was averse to cold, and wore heavy clothing (including gloves), even in warm places. He was once arrested, presumably mistaken for a vagrant, while sitting on a park bench in Sarasota, Florida, dressed in his standard all-climate attire of coat(s), warm hat, and mittens.[58] He also disliked social functions. He hated being touched, and in later life he limited personal contact, relying on the telephone and letters for communication.

Gould lived a private life: Bruno Monsaingeon said of him, "No supreme pianist has ever given of his heart and mind so overwhelmingly while showing himself so sparingly." [68]

One of Gould's performances of the Prelude and Fugue in C Major from Book Two of The Well-Tempered Clavier was chosen for inclusion on the NASA Voyager Golden Record by a committee headed by Carl Sagan. The disc of recordings was placed on the spacecraft Voyager 1, which is now approaching interstellar space and is the farthest human-made object from Earth.[43

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