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Glenn Gould: A Life and Variations Paperback – September 12, 1990


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 6 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (September 12, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679732071
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679732075
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,563,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An unorthodox, authorized biography of the extraordinary Canadian pianist and eccentric. "This absorbing, adulatory work goes well beyond previous books on Gould and presents more detail and speculation than anyone but a Gould enthusiast would require," judged PW. Photos.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"This is a fascinating book about a fascinating musician." -- Los Angeles Times

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By David Carlin on April 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be the best overall general biography on Glenn Gould. Mr Friedrich did not personally know Gould, so we have what is a good look, objectively, of Gould. He had some very good interviews with some of Glenn's closest friends and those whom he worked with. I've read it more than 4 times. We are not overwhelmed from a Musician's biographical data here, but more of what is percieved through others here. Of Course, Friedrich has some personal views but really helps to move the book along. The biggest surprise is finding out how some individuals coped with having discussions (pre-written by Gould), and their responses prewritten for them....Interesting.
Great Book....
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Robert James on August 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Otto Friedrich's biography of legendary pianist Glenn Gould is a dense, finely researched, extensive look at the man George Szell once described with the phrase, "That nut is a genius." I couldn't agree more. As a product of my culture, I was utterly ignorant of classical music growing up, seeing it as that boring music old people listened to when they didn't care anymore about dancing. Glenn Gould changed all that for me. One night at a dinner party, the host heard me say something disdainful about classical music, and he wordlessly turned around and put on Gould's 1955 rendition of the Goldberg Variations. I haven't been the same since. I now own every single recording he ever made; I still find it hard to keep from laughing at people who suggest Gould didn't know Bach better than anyone this side of God. While I can recognize that other renditions have merit, to this day I cannot hear a Bach keyboard piece without comparing it to Gould's version. This book was a wonderful companion to those recordings, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who wants to understand how genius and lunacy go so often hand in hand.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
Otto Frierich does an excellent job of putting together the pieces of the unexplainable. His approach to Glenn Gould is journalistic and methodical. Friedrich poured through throusands of personal papers, newspaper articles, audio recordings as well as conducted his own interviews, including some interesting exchanges with the legendary Leonard Bernstein regarding Gould. There are an abudance of newspaper quotations in this book, which is occasionally annoying, and the author at times inserts his own opinion which can be somewhat distracting, but I believe these devices ultimately give the biography a sense of focus and conclusion. Without the minimal type of analysis and opinion that is offered here, this book would be impossible, and from what I've read about other Gould biographies, some biographers have gone on opinion and analytical overkill (much to their own detriment) on this subject. Friedrich's journalistic nature does not permit him to go this far. Instead, one is left with a healthy balance of Gould's dissolution and ambiguity termpered within clearly defined chapters and sections, organized almost as a reference book. Friedrich quite thoroughly follows the Gould-as-a-Canadian-treasure story, especially in the early pages, but as the book progresses Gould is slowly whittled down from national symbol into something more human and recognizable. One is still left with the feeling that it is impossible to truly ever know Gould -- and that nobody has. Still, Friedrich makes it feel like this book is the closest one can ever get to knowing Gould, and recognizing the distance inherent in the subject matter, one has to come away satisfied.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a well researched and well written book. It would primarily be interesting for someone who is very interested in Glenn Gould. That is, it is not for the casual reader. Parts of it are very dense, with little in the way of true drama. Nonetheless, Glenn Gould comes across as a very complex and brilliant man. One develops a compassion for him, and this makes the ending rather sad. One thing I wanted to point out that the other reviews did not was that the author was condescending and derisive at times. This was not all the time, but in parts he clearly mocks some of the things Gould did. This bothered me considerably. While one might say that the author was being balanced, it gave me a sour impression of the author. Obviously Gould had his oddities, however I don't feel Mr. Friedrich was as sympathetic as he could have been.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
Otto Friedrich has combined spotless research, objectivity, and real empathy in what will probaly go down in history as the definitive book on this complex artist. His real understanding both of music and of a human being making music conspire to shape together a very readable and rereadable work. Gould has been covered in many ways by many authors, but never so comprehensively under one roof as he is here. Truly a must-read for anybody with even the slightest interest in the piano as it pertains to this century of music.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 18, 1998
Format: Paperback
A lively and thorough review of the life of the genius that was Glenn Gould. Material presented in this biography starts with the days Glenn spent as a child in Toronto preparing himself to play the piano as no person has ever played it before, and few will ever master it in the future. Next was his early ascent to the glories and tribulations of the concert hall at the tender age of 13; his career in radio, TV; how Glenn outlived the shallow penetrating barbs of "professional" music critics; his dependency on prescription drugs to aid him in his hypochondriacal delusions about being in bad health, and finally his untimely death at the age of 50 in 1982. Precluding the tragedy of his death were intimate stories about his charm in relationships with such notable people as Felicia and Leonard Bernstein, to mention just one.
It's obvious from this extensively researched material that Glenn Gould's life was not mundane, but highly complex, interesting and full of experimentation. Don't forget, it is Glenn Gould's recordings that are aboard Voyager spacecraft in hopes they will be heard by extraterrestrial beings. True he was known for being an eccentric, however, I prefer to make the case that it was that he was not a follower but an innovator, and was misunderstood by many with whom he did not come in direct contact.
This book is the best researched, compiled, written piece I've read, and is a fitting tribute to the memory of Glenn Gould. The sensitivity of this writing makes me wish I had known Glenn - and could write as well as Otto Friedrich.
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More About the Author

Otto Friedrich (1929-1995) was a journalist and cultural historian. A contributing editor at The Saturday Evening Post and Time magazine, he was the author of fourteen books, including Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s.

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