CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Otto Friedrich.
Toronto, ON: Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1989.
400pp., cloth, $27.95.
ISBN 0-88619-106-8. CIP.

Subject Headings:
Gould, Glenn, 1932-1982.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up

Reviewed by Gary Robertson.

Volume 17 Number 5
1989 September

Glenn Gould was one of the most famous and important musical personalities in Canadian history. When the task of writing an official biography of Gould was offered to Otto Friedrich, he was astonished to find a veritable gold mine of information at the National Library in Ottawa. There, in the Gould Collection, were thousands of items: letters, personal scribblings of daily activities, health records, program notes, drafts of interviews, and tape recordings. The joy of reading this book is in the exploration of Gould's creative genius and astonishing career as a performer.

Glenn Gould always wanted to be a pianist. He had an uncommon skill for memorizing music, sight-reading, and transcribing any new music. He responded to music with an inner ear and interpreted it far beyond the traditional technical aspects of playing. As a child prodigy he readily mastered the piano with both technical brilliance and unique, sensitive interpretations of the music of the old masters. Gould's greatest triumph was the marvellous recording of the Bach-Goldberg Variations at the age of twenty-three. His future was assured and yet at age thirty-one he retired from public performance and went on to make dozens of studio recordings. Again, success was his. But in the end, his hypochondria, his addiction to prescription drugs, and his reclusive life-style contributed to an early death at the age fifty-one.

Otto Friedrich's biography is full of insights, interviews, and accurate documentation. It helps to explain Gould's genius, personal life-style, and habits. The book is divided into chapters which deal specifically with Gould's formative years, concert tours, recordings, television and movie music, his activities as a composer and conductor, and finally his private life and habits.

Glenn Gould was a very special and very different person. This biography is a well-written tribute to a great Canadian musician. The book is compelling, enjoyable reading and is highly recommended for any library.

Gary Robertson, Thom Collegiate, Regina, SK.
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