“The Steinway encompasses every conceivable pianistic possibility. It is a great experience for the artist to have such vast resources at his disposal.”
Glenn Gould (1932-1982) was always an unorthodox pianist, choosing isolation over society. He was best known to the public for his eccentricities - wearing gloves, scarf and overcoat in summer weather; soaking his hands in hot water before playing the piano; and humming and singing while playing. Beyond this, his legacy of nearly 80 CBS recordings is among the most significant and challenging musical documents of our time.
Every recording Gould made was provocative. His vigorous, introspective and mannered keyboard style has been influential among some musicians, although he taught no students and left no musical descendants.
Mr. Gould himself seemed to grow out of no particular musical tradition. He stressed that his musical goal was to rethink the repertory in a radically different fashion. Though he had a career of nine years as a popular and critical success on the concert stage, after a performance in Chicago in March 1964, he never played in public again; after 1967, he chose to never again attend a concert.
He said he considered the concert form an ''immensely distasteful'' musical compromise that leads to ''tremendous conservatism'' in musical interpretation. Mr. Gould contended that the concert's aura of commerce, its performing stage and its listening audience interfere with music, turning the artist into a ''vaudevillian.''
''The concert is dead,'' he proclaimed. For him, the recording represented the musical future. Mr. Gould was also among the first classical musicians to treat the recording as a distinct art form, with its own possibilities and requirements. For him, the phonograph record was no more a ''record'' of an actual continuous performance than a movie was a record of actual continuous events. It was a spliced construction edited from recording tape.
''During the last 15 years,'' Mr. Gould said in an interview last year, ''I spent very little time at a recording session actually recording.''
Like the great virtuosos of an earlier era, he turned pianism into a very personal affair. However, he was distinct from those virtuosos in his rejection of their public world with its emphasis on ''performance'' and ''technique.'' Mr. Gould asserted that for music to retain its force and integrity, it was best played and heard in solitude. ''I'm fascinated with what happens to the creative output when you isolate yourself from the approval and disapproval of the people around you,'' he once said.
After he left the concert arena, he lived reclusively, speaking with people by telephone, but restricting personal contacts. He listened to other artists' recordings, but he cut himself off from the pressures and fashions of the musical world. Thus, his entire life became an experiment in esthetic isolation. Gould died alone of a stroke in October 1982.