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Long after his death, Glenn Gould still lures new listeners to his piano, connecting with them on a haunting, personal level. “He feels and you feel,” says young New York writer Nicole Spectre. “I can feel his pain and joy – it touches me. He speaks directly to me.” But when he was known as the world’s greatest pianist in the 1950s and 1960s, just who was Gould playing for? His audience? Himself? His demanding mother?
All are likely true, but he was also richly inspired by – and bared his soul at the keyboard to – a secret society of women, the girlfriends who stirred his hard-to-fetch emotions: Franny Batchen, Verna Sandercock, Cornelia Foss, Roxolana Roslak, and Monica Gaylord. Of the eighteen books and nineteen documentaries by or about the most compelling virtuoso of the twentieth century, none have contained details about Gould’s many love affairs and how they affected his life, his music, and his filmmaking.
Until now, biographers have tried to explain what came out of the music box, not the engine that drove it. The vault to his private life has remained locked since his untimely death in 1982 because of his obsessions with privacy and controlling his image, the loyalty of his carefully chosen friends and lovers, and the choice that biographers made to focus safely on his music and eccentricities.
The Secret Life of Glenn Gould will be the first true exposé of Gould, who until now has been assumed to be asexual, lonely, and egocentric, by examining his love and soul-mate relationships. His music was twelve-tonal and his documentaries “contrapuntal” – both were filled with overlapping voices – and so was his private life.
This book is very well written, accurate in its information, narrated in a lively style, and ending with an interesting epilogue, where the author briefly describes how the women who had relationships with Gould retook their lives after their trysts with the famous pianist ended.
More about the author
Michael Clarkson is an award-winning investigative and public-service journalist and the author of seven other nonfiction books. He is considered an authority on fear and stress, and he speaks professionally on those topics. He has appeared on many television shows as well as in the Harvey Weinstein documentary Salinger, for his rendezvous with the reclusive author. In the 1970s and ’80s, he was a river man of some repute. Michael and his wife have two sons and two granddaughters and now live in Canada.
“Fans of Gould will welcome this addition to the canon, which, despite its limited, voyeuristic ambition, is both revealing and respectful.” —Library Journal
“[Gould’s] many bittersweet sexual affairs, here meticulously revealed and chronicled by Michael Clarkson, make compelling reading. The sensual Mr. Gould’s Goldberg variations weren’t entirely about Johann Sebastian Bach.” — Peter C. Newman, journalist and bestselling author, Here Be Dragons
“[Clarkson] must be given credit for doggedness, clarity of writing, and enthusiasm.” —Quill & Quire
“Already the subject of more than a dozen books, Gould is even more intriguing as a result of Clarkson’s book.” —The National Post
“This book contains fascinating information you cannot easily get anywhere else . . . Gould emerges as more human, and his extraordinary musical achievements become all the more remarkable.” —Winnipeg Free Press
“Clarkson shows himself to be a thoughtful commentator, offering the occasional salacious detail but opting for a decidedly respectful voice when recounting Gould’s amorous, often bittersweet liaisons. . . . A fresh and fascinating look at the human side of genius.” —Scene Magazine
“Clarkson is able to draw the reader into the soul of the one of the most eccentric, sensitive and haunted musical geniuses the world has ever produced. This is an amazingly detailed and well researched book that I couldn’t put down.” —Liona Boyd, CM, LLD
Bach: The Goldberg Variations is the 1955 debut album of Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gould. An interpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations (BWV 988), the work launched Gould’s career as a renowned international pianist, and became one of the most well-known piano recordings. Sales were “astonishing” for a classical album: it was reported to have sold 40,000 copies by 1960, and had sold more than 100,000 by the time of Gould’s death in 1982. In 1981, a year before his death, Gould made a new recording of the Goldberg Variations, sales of which exceeded two million by 2000.
At the time of the first album’s release, Bach’s Goldberg Variations—a set of 30 contrapuntal variations beginning and ending with an aria—were outside the standard piano repertoire, having been recorded on the instrument only a few times before, either on small labels or unreleased. The work was considered esoteric and technically demanding, requiring awkward hand crossing at times when played on a piano (these passages would be played on two manuals on a harpsichord).
Gould’s album both established the Goldberg Variations within the contemporary classical repertoire and made him an internationally famous pianist nearly “overnight”.First played in concert by Gould in 1954, the composition was a staple of Gould’s performances in the years following the recording.