Monday, June 26, 2017

The Search for Perfection

A Romance on Three Legs: 
Glenn Gould's Obsessive Quest 
for the Perfect Piano 

A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould's Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano

“Gould’s playing evoked a visceral response from people who had never thought to stop and really listen to classical music. There was something about the silence between and behind each note, the richness of the different voices, that captured the imagination and caused listeners to feel that their lives had been deepened and enhanced. Thousands of people over the years had heard Gould’s best-selling 1955 recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations—the little air and its thirty virtuosic variations—and became lifelong fans.”   ― Katie Hafner, A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould's Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano

A most unusual biographical study, this is a book about a musician and his music, but even more it is about his search for perfection. The author writes of a search for a piano that is more intense than anything I have experienced in my piano-playing life. While I have encountered several different pianos, from the old upright of my youth to the local public library grand and sturdy spinets at the University of Wisconsin School of Music, I have never obsessed the way Glenn Gould did.

Katie Hafner makes the story interesting with details of the life of the piano, its caretaker and the marriage of artist and piano in the studio. The piano is a Steinway grand piano known as CD318. The caretaker, an almost completely blind piano tuner, reminded me of a piano tuner who maintained my own spinet for several years. The marriage meant that this piano became part of the history of music performances by one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century. While the marriage of piano and pianist was not fated to last forever, that part of the story is best left for the reader to discover for himself. It is a story that this music lover found exceptional. And it is a unique perspective on the life of an artist notorious for his personal eccentricities.


Brian Joseph said...

This sounds so interesting. Gould was a fascinating character. This does sound like an odd story.

I never played the piano but I know a few piano players. It is an instrument, that in the hands of a talented musician, can make such beautiful music.

James said...

Gould is fascinating and a genius at the keyboard. His genius was demonstrated in many ways including his love of a particular piano. My passion for music includes several of his recordings.