`Glenn Gould Reader' -- as surprising as the maverick pianist himself
(Page 2 of 2)
What drew Page and Gould together in the first place? A longtime admirer of Gould's performances, Page met the artist via a telephone interview in 1980. They hit it off immediately, Page told me recently, partly because of shared tastes -- for the music of Sibelius and the capacities of the media to present music, among other things.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
A person of many contradictions, Gould turned out to be an odd friend. Although he was something of a recluse with nocturnal habits, his love affair with technology included the telephone. At least once a week Page received long, chatty calls at late, drowsy hours. ``A very short one lasted half an hour,'' Page reports. But he adds that Gould was a cheery talker, with great humor and enthusiasm. Indeed, the pianist's manner could be almost childlike -- as when he insisted on regaling Page with a witty Stokowski essay he had just written and was very proud of.
When he eventually met Gould in person, Page confirmed his impression of a brilliant but eccentric artist. ``He came to the door wearing two coats and a slouch hat -- this was in August -- and unshaven,'' recalls Page. This image tallies with the Gould photos that appear on many record jackets, giving him a brooding and Byronic look. Yet the inner Gould was quite the opposite, Page says. ``You wouldn't guess it from the way he often looked, but he was the merriest of companions -- a funny, warm, effervescent, gentle, deeply caring person.''
Other paradoxes marked Gould, too. ``He was driven in a lot of ways, and yet tried not to be,'' Page says. ``He had a tremendous ego, yet a yearning to transcend it. That's one reason why competition was his b^ete noir.''
Was the great pianist just being devilish in his more outrageous moments, as some of his critics have suggested? ``At times he absolutely was,'' says Page. ``There was a side of him that was a mischievous, bratty, brilliant little kid who never grew up. A lot of his defenders can't admit that.
``But I think those defenders actually diminish him,'' Page adds. ``There was a seriousness even to Gould's mischief. He just couldn't do anything without doing it in some unusual or creative way.''
How does Page rate his friend's piano playing, which is as controversial -- and as mischievous, at times -- as his personality? ``He was a fantastic technician,'' says Page. ``I don't think even Horowitz had a more incredible technique. He could play anything, and do it brilliantly. He also had a questing and innovative way of looking at music.
``He did make disastrous recordings -- not just bad, but genuinely awful. Yet even these are awful in an interesting way. At least he was thinking about the music . . . and questing for something, trying to hear it differently. And at his best he took the listener to an incredible depth. . . .''
More of Page's insights into Gould can be found in the first volume of the CBS Masterworks album ``Glenn Gould's Bach, Vol. 1,'' which includes a perky Gould-Page interview on the ``Goldberg'' Variations, along with two recordings of that piece. Other recent CBS issues include Vol. 2 of the Gould-Bach series, including the French Suites; and the first volume of a projected ``Glenn Gould Legacy'' series, including three discs of Bach and a bonus conversation on the subject of ``Glenn Gould, Concert Drop-Out.''