Sunday, 25 July 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee with Glenn Gould

Welcome to yet another show.  The weeks go around so quickly that I always seem to be working on a show.  I’m delighted to see you once more.

Today I feature Glenn Gould about whom I knew nothing until earlier this year when Claudia/Claude left a comment on a music post.  A genius Bachian  - if there is such a word – pianist apparently.  This week I listened and I agree … but there is more.

Grab your coffee, sit down, relax and listen.

Bach:                Piano Concerto No.7 in G minor BWV1058

I didn’t know this piece – I do now – but Gould brings it to life brilliantly.


Gould was born in Toronto in 1932 and died at the tragically young ager of 50 from a stroke.

Both his parents were musical and, apparently, he could read music before words.  Wikipedia says, “His playing was distinguished by a remarkable technical proficiency and a capacity to articulate the polyphonic texture of Bach’s music.”


 Unsurprisingly we continue with Bach.

Bach                                          English Suite No. 5, Prelude

Unsurprisingly this too is brilliant.  Again Gould lifts the music from the paper and gives us  … life.


I assume Gould’s strange posture at the piano was caused by a back injury.  Wikipedia tells the story as: “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. This incident is almost certainly 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”


We leave Bach behind, for the moment only, but remain with the B’s with Beethoven.

Beethoven:  Piano Concerto No5 in E Flat Major, op. 73,    "Emperor."

I don’t know which movement this is but note that the video starts (12 secs) with the end of one movement.  Also the video cuts off before the end of a movement.

A man at one with his music.  Nine minutes plus of sheer poetry.


Some say that many of Gould’s recordings are ruined by his humming as he plays.  I did hear this in one video but I can’t remember which.


We reach the midpoint with Gould playing an English composer I had never heard about.

Orlando Gibbons                                    Fantasy in C major

This is such a beautiful piece despite its apparent simplicity.


We’ll take a short break for you to stretch your legs and top up your coffee and we’ll restart with a different aspect of Gould.


Now we hear Gould the composer but not the player.

Glenn Gould:                                Opus 1 for String Quartet

We heard less than one tenth of the entire piece which received mixed reviews.  Now not that I know anything about musical composition but this extract seems to have four separate concurrent themes which struggle for supremacy. God,  I’m either brilliant or this is the biggest load of nonsense imaginable from a fool.  I suspect that it is the latter.


Bach returns now.

Bach:                                    Chromatic Fantasy BWV 903

This is the video in which Gould’s ”noise” can be heard.

This is so good despite his “noise”.  Fabulous.


Only two tracks left and there are so many I could have chosen but Bach moves aside for Brahms for 6m 32 s of magic.

One commenter said, “This piece is so intimate. Glenn Gould really makes you feel it. Simply Beautiful.”

What do you think?

Brahms:              Intermezzo No. 2 in A Major, Op. 118: Andante Teneramente

I have fallen in love with this.  I can think of nothing else to say.


For the final track – NO! – Bach returns with music of such beauty that it goes far beyond any other I have played tonight – and I have already fallen in love with the last track.

Bach: Goldberg Variations  Aria and 7 (of 30 variations) BWV 988

You’ll hear Gould in the background especially in the opening aria.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard this in the last few days and each time I’m awe-struck by …. everything about this.  I could – almost but not quite – die happily listening to this.  What a way to go!

Apologies if this seems over the top but Gould and Bach have formed an unbeatable combination.


Thank you for sharing this wonderful music and this wonderful musician with me.

Well, that’s it for another week.  I hope you enjoyed your coffee and the music.   Tune in again next week and thanks for listening.


  1. What can I say? First: Thank you. A superb choice which shows Glenn Gould at different moments, and with different talents. I should write: it shows Glenn's versatile genius.

    Secondly: I have visitors this week-end. At 9 pm, I decided to look at your Sunday Morning Coffee Offerings. It's always nice to have entertaining music in the background while drinking wine. With surprise, I told my friends, "It's Glenn Gould!" They read your introduction with a big smile. We're all Canadians, and rightfully proud of him. We sat down in my solarium (also computer room), with the bottles of wine, attended the concert, and listened twice to a few pieces. None of us had heard Glenn's composition, and the Gibbons' Fantasy before. Your notes are always so helpful. And yes, you are brilliant about the String Quartet composition.

    Again, thank you. I'll come back on my own, and with my music students, during the week. But you certainly gave us much pleasure tonight. Your delight about Glenn Gould's interpretation of those great composers was our delight.

    Have a good day, and a wonderful life, my Scottish friend. You deserve it! And I'll speak of you to Glenn, the next time I sit with him on his bench, in Toronto.

  2. If ever I find the effort to produce the show too much all I need do is read your comment and I'll whizz through the work. Many, many thanks.

    I do the show primarily for me but giving pleasure by sharing music I have discovered and love is a fabulous bonus.

    "And I'll speak of you to Glenn, the next time I sit with him on his bench, in Toronto."

    Will you tell him that your friend, Calum, says "Thank you"?

  3. you are not 'over the top' in praising Glenn Gould - no praise can be high enough

    and I like his hum-along style which can be heard very clearly on some of his records

    ditto what Claude says about him

  4. I was wondering what the Kronos Quartet would make of Gould's composition but can't find if they have recorded it or not but in a brief search I came across this which is interesting

  5. Yes, he was certainly at one with Bach, though he interpreted the others well too.

    I didn't know of him before this and will put a little addendum, on tonight's offerings at my place, to pop over here and have a listen.

  6. This post is still my joy and delight. Again and again. Merci de tout coeur, Calum.