Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Gould & Menuhin: Bach Violin Sonata No. 4

Glenn Gould and Yehudi Menuhin together perform J.S. Bach's Violin Sonata No. 4 in C minor, BWV1017; it dates to 1965. In a Collections Canada archive on Glenn Gould, an article describes some of the background notes to this performance of 1965 ("Introduction to The Last Puritan" by Bruno Monsaingeon).

Monsaingeon writes:

Los Angeles - late July 1973
I happen to be spending a few days in the company of Yehudi Menuhin who came to give two concerts in California. Tomorrow, he will travel back to Europe while I will be flying to Toronto where I am to meet Glenn Gould for the first time. I mention this to Yehudi, curious as I am to know his feelings vis-a-vis an artist whom I admire but have never met, although we did exchange a rather voluminous written correspondence over the past few months. Much to my surprise, I learn that Yehudi and Glenn know each other personally; that they have in fact played together. Yehudi undertakes to relate the occasion: "It dates back to 1965; Glenn Gould had invited me to participate in one of his television appearances and had asked me to play with him sonatas by Bach and Beethoven and... the Schoenberg Fantasy. As you well know, Schoenberg is not amongst those twentieth century composers for whose music I have an immediate and irresistible appeal. When I arrived at Glenn's place in Toronto for our first scheduled rehearsal, I met a man of genius to whom the Schoenbergian structures and idiom were natural elements. We worked on the Fantasy together and he magnificently managed to convey to me the profound understanding and true love he had for that music. It was a revelation."
Gould was Canadian, and very much so. Much, perhaps too much, has been written about Gould's outward peculiarities, such as humming when he played, the need to sit fourteen inches above the floor and only perform in a chair built by his father. (You can see Gould performing here.) 

Then there was the matter of Gould's awkward social behavior, which was discussed too much. Gould was considered an eccentric for wearing gloves, a beret and an overcoat, even in warm weather. He also was adverse to being touched and later in life avoided most personal intercourse, communicating chiefly by phone and letters.

Yet, he was a man of deep habits, says a CBC documentary on Gould:  "Sometime between two and three every morning Gould would go to Fran's, a 24-hour diner a block away from his Toronto apartment, sit in the same booth and order the same meal of scrambled eggs."

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