The difficulty of producing a documentary about Glenn Gould’s life and his eccentricities must have been daunting. The filmmakers have managed it well without getting bogged down in the latter – the story weaves continuously between Gould’s remarkable music-making and his demons.
The story is told through interviews with many of Gould’s contemporaries, including the recording crew at CBS, the record company that recognised his genius at his first New York recital in 1955. Their recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations made him an overnight sensation.
Many other famous stories are told, including that of Leonard Bernstein accompanying Gould’s performance of the Brahms’s First Piano Concerto, and prefacing the concert with comments about the pianist’s right to his interpretation, despite being in disagreement.
Gould kept the world guessing, never more so than when he gave up the concert hall at the age of 31. He hated giving concerts and hated the audiences – and gives his reasons. His increasing paranoia and early death at 50 has largely been blamed upon his addiction to a cocktail of drugs.
Luckily, there is a great deal of footage of Gould in conversation and at work. It is here that the greatest value of the film lies.