OTD: Pianist Glenn Gould dies

On today’s date in 1982, famed Canadian pianist Glenn Gould died in Toronto, Ont.

It was Sept. 27, 1982—only a few days after Gould’s 50th birthday and about a week after the release of his best-selling second recording of the Goldberg Variations—when he suffered a massive stroke. He eventually died a week later.

“Mr. Gould was always an unorthodox pianist, choosing isolation over society, recordings over live concerts and idiosyncratic reinterpretations over respect for musical ‘authenticity,'” reads a 1982 obituary by the New York Times.

Gould’s unexpected death made international headlines as he was known worldwide for his eccentricities.

“I remember him as an odd young man,” said Canadian opera singer Maureen Forrester in an interview with CBC News.

Felix Leclerc was also featured in Canada Post's 'Extraordinary Entertainers' set.

Felix Leclerc was also featured in Canada Post’s ‘Extraordinary Entertainers’ set.


Gould originally catapulted onto the world stage at the age of 23, when he released his initial recording of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which is considered among the most difficult pieces ever composed on piano.

Nearly a decade later, in 1964, he quit performing live and declared “the concert is dead,” something that shocked international audiences.

“He said he considered the concert form an ‘immensely distasteful’ musical compromise that leads to ‘tremendous conservatism’ in musical interpretation. Mr. Gould contended that the concert’s aura of commerce, its performing stage and its listening audience interfere with music, turning the artist into a ‘vaudevillian,'” reads the Times obituary.

“For him, the recording represented the musical future. Mr. Gould was also among the first classical musicians to treat the recording as a distinct art form, with its own possibilities and requirements. The phonograph record, for Mr. Gould, was no more a ‘record’ of an actual continuous performance than a movie was a record of actual continuous events. It was a spliced construction, edited from recording tape.”


On Dec. 17, 1999, Canada Post commemorated Gould on a 46-cent multi-coloured stamp (Scott #1820b) printed by Ashton Potter on Tullis Russell coated paper using offset lithography. It was issued as part of a four-stamp pane celebrating “Extraordinary Entertainers,” which also included Portia White (SC #1820a); Guy Lombardo (SC #1820c); and Felix Leclerc (SC #1820d).

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