The eccentric pianist would have been 80 today. We celebrate with breathtaking footage of a genius at work.

The Goldberg Variations: young and old

Rare footage of Gould playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations in a playful manner. Magic moment: the economy of the left hand in the third variation, around 1’45”.

Listen out for the subtle differences between the performance below and the legendary 1981 disc, recorded just days apart.

 

A young Gould rehearses (with border collie)

Look out for his trademark finger tap technique at 1’23”.

 

Beethoven: 15 Variations and Fugue, Op 35

Gould talks us through his playing

Beethoven: The Emperor Concerto deconstructed on solo piano 

Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier

One marvels that Gould can play a fugue with such intensity and talk at the same time. Here he gives us insights into the intricate technical thought process of a genius, explaining the inner workings of the E Major fugue: “One masterpiece comin’ up.”

Gould’s Chair

As he explains to Bruno Monsaingeon, Gould’s cherished chair is “a member of the family; a boon travelling companion without which I do not function, cannot operate.”            

Prokofiev: Sonata No 7 (3rd movement)

A highly strung performance of one of the Russian composer’s War sonatas.

Beethoven: Cello Sonata

Gould’s chamber music deserves more attention: here he gives a warm performance with American cellist Leonard Rose. 

Bach: Concerto in D Minor with Leonard Bernstein

Note Gould’s could-hear-a-pin-drop dynamic control and the way the maestro turns around to watch him and glean his tempo in a moment of orchestral repose.

Gould often wrote his own spiky cadenzas for Mozart and Beethoven concertos, and it makes sense that the master of Bach’s counterpoint would be able to fugue his heart out. Here is his remarkably tongue-in-cheek, instructional double fugue for four singers.