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The many worshipers of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould (1932-1982) are no less steadfast. The impressive bibliography of Gouldiana has made him into someone who needs no introduction. Yet the veteran Canadian journalist Peter Goddard, author of books on Cyndi Lauper, Michael Jackson, Van Halen and other rock and pop stars, brings a new perspective to the subject. While working for Canadian radio decades ago, he actually met Gould, who for better or worse, became a sort of rock-star posthumously. One encounter, at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation a half-century ago, was characteristically cryptic, with Gould happening upon Goddard busily splicing tape for a broadcast late one night. Gould informed Goddard in an oracular way: ‘You realise, of course, that [splicing] will be taken over by a machine… a logical step, a very human step, too – the step toward perfection, if you think of it.’ Goddard focuses on the myth and the man, not really on the music. This book does not venture to explain why Gould’s recordings of his favourite composers, from Gibbons to Schoenberg, are so striking, while those of works he despised, such as the piano sonatas of Mozart, can be so disappointing. Still, The Great Gould discounts certain myths, such as that the conductor George Szell, watching Gould fret over the comparative heights of his chair and the piano during a rehearsal in Cleveland, supposedly growled, ‘Perhaps if I were to slice one-sixteenth of an inch off your derrière, Mr Gould, we could begin.’ Despite being printed widely during Gould’s lifetime, this anecdote appears to be entirely apocryphal.

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