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Glenn Gould


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About the Author

Peter F. Ostwald published several biographies of performing artists, including Schumann: The Inner Voices of a Musical Genius and Vaslav Nijinski: A Leap into Madness. He died, shortly after completing this book, in 1996.


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

Famous for his eccentricities as well as for his brilliance as a pianist, Gould (1932-1982) was a notorious hypochondriac and recluse. In this disturbing biography, Ostwald (Schumann: The Inner Voices of a Musical Genius), a psychiatrist and musician who met Gould in 1957 and observed his behavior for the next quarter-century, examines his life and career in an attempt to explain his psychosomatic illnesses but manages only to describe them. Except for a few tentative speculations‘Gould may have suffered from Asperger disease, a variant of autism, and his reluctance to get close to people may have been an attempt to shield himself from homicidal impulses‘the author does not show how the totally self-absorbed, neurotic genius got the way he was. The details of Gould's real and imaginary illnesses may become wearing for some readers, yet Ostwald's analyses of Gould's musicianship and discussions of his radio broadcasts and TV documentaries are illuminating, and his writing has an intimacy that makes you feel you've actually been in the same room with the pianist. Photos not seen by PW. (May) FYI: Ostwald succumbed to cancer after a 12-year battle upon completing this book.

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