Glenn Gould

Essential Albums

  • Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 (The 1955 & 1981 Recordings)

Artist Playlists

About Glenn Gould

Gould's delicately spun Goldberg Variations (1956) inadvertently became his signature piece—the first few bars of Bach's gently winding Aria are carved onto the Canadian pianist's grave. Born in Toronto in 1932, Gould won acclaim with his first recording of the Goldbergs in 1956. Although he is closely associated with both Bach and Beethoven, Gould played and recorded music by a wide range of composers, including Schoenberg, Mozart, and the English Virginalists, of which his favorite composer, Gibbons, was part. His extensive discography arose in part because the pianist retired from the stage at 31, preferring the control of the studio up until his death in 1982. This disdain for playing in public—combined with the peculiar rituals he undertook before playing the piano—led Gould to be cast as an eccentric. He preferred to play seated on his own low chair (now housed in the Library and Archives Canada) and wore gloves in all weathers in order to protect his hands. He also constructed alter egos such as Nigel Twitt-Thornwaite and Theodore Slutz, whose musical criticism both amused and bemused the establishment. But perhaps the most distinctive quirk of Gould’s playing was that he regularly hummed and sang along to the music, a trait that endeared and distracted listeners in equal measure.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
September 25, 1932

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