December 13th, 2010
Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould
Gould, the artist as a young man photographed by his close friend John P.L. Roberts. Toronto.

Gould, the artist as a young man photographed by his close friend John P.L. Roberts. Toronto.

1932 – Glenn Herbert Gold is born in Toronto on September 25 to Florence Greig and Russell Herbert (Bert) Gold. (The family changed its surname to “Gould” around 1939).

1935 – Gould’s prodigious musical gifts, including perfect pitch, become apparent. At age 4, his mother becomes his first piano teacher.

1943 – He begins studying piano with Alberto Guerrero.

1946 – On May 8, Gould makes his orchestral debut with the Toronto Conservatory Symphony Orchestra at Massey Hall as part of the Toronto Conservatory of Music Annual Closing Concert.

1947 – On October 20, Gould gives his first public professional solo recital, held in Eaton Auditorium, Toronto. He is now managed by Walter Homburger. Around this time, the Gould family acquires one of the earliest tape recorders, and Gould begins eagerly to explore the new technology and document his playing.

1949 – Gould decides to become a concert pianist under tutor Alberto Guererro, whom he clashes with over his singing and flamboyant style.

1950 – In a recital at Hart House, Gould offers perhaps the first characteristically “Gouldian” program: Bach’s Italian Concerto, Beethoven’s “Eroica” Variations, and Hindemith’s Third Sonata.

1952 – Gould ends his piano lessons with Guerrero. For the next few years, he spends an increasing amount of time living at his family’s cottage, practicing, thinking, reading, composing, and generally preparing himself for an adult career as a musician.

1955 – Gould gives his New York debut recital in Town Hall on January 11. The following day, he is offered an exclusive recording contract with Columbia.

1956 – In January, Columbia releases Gould’s recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. It is released to almost universal critical and popular acclaim, launching his international career as a recording and concert artist.

1957 – On May 7, he begins his first European tour and becomes the first North American pianist to perform in the Soviet Union since WWII.

1959 – At age 27, Gould finally moves out of his parents’ home, at first, into the Windsor Arms Hotel. On August 31, he gives his last public performance in Europe at the L.

1960 – Gould spends the first half of the year living at the Algiers Apartments on Avenue Road, and then moves into a penthouse (No. 902) at The Park Lane Apartments, 100 St. Clair Avenue West – his home for the rest of his life.

1962 – Gould meets Cornelia Foss, a painter and the wife of Lukas Foss, a composer and pianist Gould greatly admires. He befriends the couple. By 1964, his friendship with Cornelia has evolved into the most important romance of his life. Gould performs a controversial Brahms concert with Leonard Bernstein in New York with very slow tempi. His performance, and the conductor Leonard Bernstein’s pre-concert speech alluding to their differences over interpretation, provokes criticism in the press.

1964 – On April 10, Gould gives a recital at Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles — his last live public performance.

1968 – The performer-manager relationship between Glenn Gould and Walter Homburger ends.

1968 – Cornelia Foss leaves her husband Lukas and brings her two children to live in Toronto to be close to Gould. They intend to marry.

1971 – On January 10, Gould records his first session in Eaton Auditorium, Toronto, where he will make most of his recordings for the rest of his life. Around this time, he also hires a personal assistant, Ray Roberts, who becomes a close friend.

1972 – Gould creates musical arrangements for the film Slaughterhouse Five distributed by Universal Pictures.

ca. 1973 – Cornelia Foss leaves Gould and returns to live with her husband, conductor Lukas Foss in New York.

1975 – On July 26, Gould’s mother dies.

1979 – “Glenn Gould’s Toronto” (part of the series “Cities”) appears on CBC-TV on September 27. The program receives two ACTRA awards and is nominated for a GENIE award in 1980.

1982 – CBS releases Gould’s new recording of the Goldberg Variations. The album wins two GRAMMY awards and a JUNO award in 1983, as well as a Gold Disc from the Canadian Recording Industry Association in 1984. In the summer, he conducts a recording of the chamber version of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll for CBS.

On October 4, 1982, Gould dies at age 50 after suffering a stroke a week prior. Some 3,000 attend his memorial service on October 15.

Library and Archives Canada: The Glenn Gould Archive,
Kevin Bazzana, Biographer,

  • Frank

    If Gould is Canadian, why is he on “American Masters”?

  • Jim McGrath

    Glenn Gould is indeed a master. Canadian Master…unclear on the concept are we PBS???

  • Fred Haeseker

    I just finished watching this excellent film with a great deal of enjoyment and appreciation of such fine little touches as the inclusion of an interview with Petula Clark. However I was surprised to see it being shown as part of the PBS series American Masters. If there ever were a quintessentially Canadian artist, it would be Glenn Gould.
    It is obvious judging by the pledge drives that the PBS is aware of its considerable viewership north of the border. Wouldn’t it have been more politically sensitive, so to speak, to have presented this Canadian-produced film simply as a documentary special?

  • Wesley Barnhart

    I can’t believe you wasted an episode of American Masters on that idiot Glen Gould. As a result of a favorable mention in a hi-fi magazine, I bought the “Goldberg Variations” album in 1968. It was horrible. He sings while he plays, badly. I had that habit when six, but my father shouted at me and made me quit. Mr. Gould’s parents should have done him the same favor. He doesn’t play Bach any better than I do. If you wanted to present an important presenter of the neglected J.S. Bach, both Leopold Stokowski with Disney association and E. Power Biggs with his radio show and FM discs were much more important to people in the middle of this country.
    Like the many photogenic cover artists that top the pop charts these days, I believe Mr. Gould was famous more for his appearance than his musical ability.

  • david craig

    As a dual citizen, and as a physician, it wouldn’t have bothered me a lick if Fred Banting, discoverer of insulin, and a Canadian, had been featured on American Medical Masters. So why should it bother people if Gould was a Canadian citizen? We are on the same continent, are part of western culture, and frequently straddle both sides of the border. He is a genius who practised his art in both countries, where he was appreciated. He should be loved by all North Americans. The name of the program is immaterial.

  • Debrjordan

    Because America loved him!!

  • barent jones

    in case anyone needs a geography lesson. canada,the u.s., and mexico.[yes, mexico, is part of north,not central america, as some people think]. gould’s career, gained huge prominence in the u.s. new york, most especially. i don’t think, it is, a slight, to gould, or canada, to put him in the “american masters” series. after all, we are both, countries that, [with the exception of indigenous peoples] are largely made up of immigrant’s. and, in the u.s., sadly, decendants of slaves. there is no need for nationalistic territoriality. “american masters”, the series, has always, incorporated people, from all over the planet, including, you, our northen neighbors. if canada, did a program, on someone who was born, and raised, in the u.s., but made their mark in canada,i would not be troubled, by calling them, a “canadian master”. unfortunately, for better, or for worse,the u.s. has huge media concentration,and, many people form other parts of the world, are, going to become well known here, in ways, that might, be much more difficult, if not impossible, in other parts of the globe. especially so, in glenn goiuld’s time.

  • Brent

    Let’s see. America is made up of two hemispheres: South America (Cachao came from there) and North America (where British born John Lennon lived before his death). Canada is part of North America. Thank you American Masters for airing this wonderful documentary!

  • Nuria

    Canada is in the Americas. Good enough for me. I enjoyed this program immensely, although I am not normally terribly interested in classical musicians.

  • Alayne

    Glenn Gould. American Master? I don’t know who organized the idea of this bio but a fundamental quality of Gould is how he was Canadian. His concern about Canada’s far north, his idea of touring, his commitment to CBC, etc. are but some of the ways Gould was his own boss and how, in many respects Gould was concerned with how being Canadian meant making sure American trends did not swallow him up. As someone trained as a historian I am stunned at this theme not included in this presentation. If anyone who is American wonders why a Canadian might get disheartened about the U.S. just not getting why Canada feels both unique from the US and regularly imposed upon by Americanisms, here’s another example.

  • Christian

    Frank, Jim & Fred:

    I think AMERICAN MASTERS focuses on people that have influenced American culture, regardless of their nationality or country of origin. I don’t think they were trying to put anything over on anyone, or ignore or deny Mr Gould’s Canadian heritage,

    “AMERICAN MASTERS is a growing film library documenting the role important individuals, groups, and movements have played in the formation of our cultural identity.” ~ ‘ABOUT THE SERIES’ tab above

  • Randolph Herr

    There are many times when a word has several definitions; for instance “New York” can be the State, the City of 5 Boroughs, or Manhattan Island. While I always think of “America” as referring to the U.S. anybody who is from either South America or North America can be called “American”. Of course, being “technically correct” doesn’t mean you’re not going to make a lot of people wonder why you are calling them Americans.

  • Feliciano Leon

    I think it was a bit thoughtless on the part of PBS to present the life and triumphs of Glenn Gould, who was a Canadian citizen, without officially acknowledging this important fact. He, in fact, is a Canadian Master. However, this does not diminish the genius of this wonderful man. He will be remembered through the ages. He left us so soon. He gave us his complete self.

  • Fred Haeseker

    To Brent and others who brought up Canada being located in North America, or America for that matter: When a person refers to “America,” s/he is using an abbreviated form of “United States of America,” like “United States” or “US.” By the way, on American Masters I have yet to see a documentary on such culturally influential “Americans” as the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo or the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges. Unlike many of if not most successful Canadian artists, Glenn Gould did not move to the US to further his career. He was born in Toronto, grew up in Toronto, and remained there all his life.

  • Lisa

    Dear Wesley Barnhart,

    I baffles me that you do not see the value in Gould’s contributions as an artist as you feel you can surely play Bach as well as he did. A tinge of obsession about Bach seems to prevent you from having enjoyed this program. Perhaps you missed the point about Gould being a true “renaissance man” whose genius transcended conventions. There was no doubt the man had perfected his technique by allowing it to become an instrument to his imaginings. This, many feel, is the true mark of an artist–the communicator who above all does not allow life to interfere with his abilities. Although, I have been accused of being a purist in many musical endeavors, myself, I do not discount those who make us think through their art. A undergraduate classmate of mine proceeded to play the most romantic Bach I had ever heard up to that point in my young life. While I was poised to poo-poo her performance, I felt an urgency and scholarly passion in her interpretation that may well have even made Bach smile had he lived to hear it.

    In regard to your reference to Gould’s looks being the draw, I’m sorry that you would even make this an issue. I do hope you find yourself attractive someday–regardless, I’m sure that your mother loved you anyway. :-P

  • Glen Cram

    Just to clarify for the benefit of those citizens of the US who (as I have experienced) try to make Canadians feel better about their inferior country by saying, “Well, you are Americans too.” A large part of the Canadian identity can be summed up thus: we are not Americans; we have no wish to be Americans; we sympathise with you for being Americans and wish you the best, but when you call Glen Gould (or John Lennon in another promo for this show!) American, we try not to take it as an insult, but simply another reinforcement of Americans’ woeful ignorance of the world outside their borders.

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