Glenn Gould was one of the greatest performers of JS Bach’s keyboard works since the advent of recordings. The Canadian pianist was also a gifted pedagogue and world class eccentric. He invented nutty alter egos, one of whom appears in the video at the end of this article.
Among Gould’s quirks was hypochondriasis. Shortly after the release of his first recording in 1956 (The Goldberg Variation), he was engaged to give a recital at Williams College where I was an undergraduate. His bravura performance of Bach’s great variations made Gould an international celebrity. Accordingly, the recital was sold out. My recollection is that it was scheduled for a Saturday evening. Gould arrived on Friday and immediately checked into the college infirmary; he remained there until Sunday whereupon he departed to parts unknown to me. Performing in front of an audience eventually became so daunting for him that he abandoned it entirely, devoting his time to recordings and television.
Gould alone, among serious musicians did not care for the music of Mozart, at least the mature compositions that most feel to be the peak of his output. Gould described Mozart’s later compositions as, “Skillful self parody.”
In the video linked below, after describing his disdain for Mozart and debating with an alter ego on a TV monitor, Gould performs Mozart’s Piano Sonata #13, K 333 which he attributes to the end of the composer’s Paris sojourn. Actually, the piece was written in Linz in 1783 when Mozart was 27. Gould forcefully expresses his preference for Mozart’s works written in his twenties to those of 30 and beyond.