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Glenn Gould: The Ecstasy and Tragedy of Genius Paperback – September 17, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 17, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393318478
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393318470
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,172,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Peter Ostwald, who died shortly after completing this sensitive analysis of the legendary Canadian pianist Glenn Gould (1932-82), is one of those rare biographers equally qualified to assess his subject's artistry and psychology. Founder of the Health Program for Performing Artists, the psychiatrist-author was also Gould's friend for 20 years. Lucid prose captures Gould's formidable, unconventional virtuosity and unmasks a deeply troubled man who was uncomfortable with audiences, fearful of human contact, and able to maintain relationships only when he was in complete control. The eccentricities and the genius, as Ostwald persuasively demonstrates, were inextricably intertwined. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The late writer, psychiatrist, and musician Ostwald concluded his series of performer biographies (e.g., Vaslav Nijinsky: A Leap into Madness, LJ 11/1/90) with this portrait of Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. Ostwald wrote from the unusual perspective of someone who was a friend of the reclusive Gould. Readers excited by this insider viewpoint may be somewhat disappointed as Ostwald's personal reminiscences taper off after his opening chapter. Still, Ostwald does present the medical aspects of Gould's life to a degree not seen in earlier biographies. And though Gould remains something of an enigma, his talent, quirkiness, and innovative musicianship emerge. Since his death in 1982, Gould has remained an influential and somewhat controversial pianist, owing in part to a recorded legacy that remains very much alive. This new biography should help maintain interest in Gould. A valuable addition for larger music collections.?James E. Ross, WLN, Seattle
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

In the end it doesn't seem Ostwald liked Gould much.
John Harrington
I feel that this book delves into GG's person too far for comfort and reasonability, to the point of offensiveness.
a_kimura@skidmore.edu
It is a hatchet job, motivated not by facts or research, but by personal animus.
Daniel Pi

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
Glenn Gould was, by all accounts, a fascinating and extraordinary man, but difficult to know ; apart from his art, he was renowned for his perceived eccentricity, his reclusiveness, and his wish to keep his private life entirely hidden and separate from his public persona. Various books and endless articles have attempted to present a portrait of Gould, but to my mind, no writer has ever come close to the "essence" of the man; perhaps this is as Gould himself would have wished. His primary mode of communicating with the world was with his music, and music -related writing and broadcasting, and the author of this book makes that very clear. It is mostly concerned with the glorious music, not with Gould's private life, and this is how it should be. But Peter Ostwald, the author, was a doctor and a psychiatrist as well as a gifted musician,(Well, I have read that he was a gifted musician; I've never heard him play!) and does therefore concentrate one one aspect of Gould that he finds interesting and important to understanding the man: his attitude to health, and his emotional state. Gould was, notoriously, considered to be a hypochondriac, although this is not to suggest that his ill-health was imaginary; he did indeed suffer with a number of serious health problems throughout his short life that affected his ability to play the piano. Ostwald considers these, and Goulds mental states, from a medical point of view, although he rather irritatingly does not form any definite conclusions about the roots of Gould's difficulties and does not offer the reader more than a mere suggestion of diagnosis. (there is a brief mention of the possibility that Gould had Asperger's syndrome .... an idea that seems to arouse the wrath of many Gould admirers!Read more ›
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful By John Harrington on May 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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For many reasons Peter Ostwald appears to have borne something of a grudge against Glenn Gould.
There is some explanation for this. For example, at one point, Gould allegedly dismissed Ostwald's earlier biography of Schumann with "why don't you write a book about a really important musician". But this is after Ostwald insults Gould's recording (with Laredo) of the Bach violin and keyboard sonatas.
Additionally, it is true that their friendship cooled over the years, to the point that, in the last five years of Gould's life, they were not in contact at all. Ostwald implies Gould's interest in him was motivated by a desire to mooch off him in a professional capacity, by getting Ostwald, a psychiatrist, to endorse his hypochondriacal excuses for cancelling concerts, and that once Gould understood Ostwald wasn't about to play ball, Gould ended the friendship.
It would be nice if Gould could present his side of the story. The tacit implication is that there could be no other reason for not wishing to be Ostwald's friend. Well, I can think of a few. Ostwald's descriptions of Gould often fairly drip with disdain. It is clear that they disagree on many personal and aesthetic levels. In the end it doesn't seem Ostwald liked Gould much. He has little good to say about his character, or even his recordings. It is hard to see what an enduring friendship was supposed to be based upon.
Ostwald's musical comments are, on occasion, strikingly naive for a music biographer, and in at least one respect grossly in error. For example, he dismisses Gould/Laredo's brilliant recording of the Bach violin sonatas, but praises Gould/Menuhin's recording of the c minor sonata as "a flawless rendition". Objectively, their rendition is anything but "flawless".
Read more ›
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Sen Peng Eu on November 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
We are interested in Gould not because of his eerie behavior or his being a paranoid. We are JUST fascinated by his wonderful music. This book gives us some perspective of the psychic state and health of Gould, but it stress too much on them ,regardless the really good music Gould had move us, and it tells too little about how Gould make music, what's the connection between music and Gould, and what the meaning of life to Gould? After reading the book, I get the impression that Gould is but a tragic freak. But I ask myself, where does the music come from? The book tells us nothing. It does help me know Gould the guy, but doesn't help me penetrate into Gould the musician.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Corn Soup on May 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is valuable for many new anecdotes about Gould when he was out of the spotlight. For example there is a description of a night of chamber music playing at a friend of the author's house that displays both Gould's strengths as a musician and his limitations as a social being. For those tired of the endlessly repeated tales about wearing gloves in the summer and eating arrowroot biscuits, this is a refreshing book. I won't comment on the psychobiographical aspects of the book because I don't know anything about psychology, but at the very least, Ostwald was an intelligent man who had experience with psychiatry, music, and Gould, so I think there is some value in what he says. Also, unlike some of the other books about relationships that authors have had with pianists (read: Evenings with Horowitz by David Dubal) Ostwald keeps himself in the background for much of the book. I disagree that Ostwald used the book to get back at Gould. It is admittedly a book based on personal experience, and one of his experiences with Gould was that he was ultimately rejected. Why shouldn't he write about being hurt by this experience? At least he didn't try to cast himself as the most important thing in Gould's life, a la Dubal, and recognizes that any relationship with Gould was tenuous, something that he explores in the book.
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