Glenn Gould: Mozart, in his later years, was not a very good composer

Glenn Gould: Mozart, in his later years, was not a very good composer


norman lebrecht

August 17, 2020

One of the most intriguing lost programs made by Glenn Gould has just been retrieved on Youtube.

Watch now before someone manages to take it down.

Gould says: ‘I think Mozart, especially in his later years, was not a very good composer’.

He goes on to say: A five year-old could have written this…’

The clue to tongue positioning in cheek may be that phrase ‘in his later years’. Mozart never lived to see later years.


  • M McAlpine says:

    Glenn Gould in his later years was a bit of an idiot…

    • McAndine says:

      My dear McAlpine, if you are who I think you are, you need to prove a lot to be able to sound convincing while calling Mr. Gould an idiot.

      I hope that all the readers are aware that this is a rhetorical exercise in which Gould plays both the Devil’s advocate and Mozart’s defensor (in the form of his alter-egos) in order to bring a different perspective to the table. It’s full if irony and sarcasm, as most of Gould’s writing and shows. You may dislike it, as it often happens with Gould, but his point isn’t as blunt and simple as it may seem at first.

      • M McAlpine says:

        I think Gould’s state of mind in later years can be indicated by the fact that when asked why he had sold a certain piece of furniture, he said, “I didn’t like the way it was looking at me.” He was swallowing so many pills that one wonders whether he was capable of rational thought at all.

        • Bruce says:

          You missed McAndine’s point once again, that Gould’s comments are often full of satire and humor, and you are taking it entirely at face value without context.

          We should always try to stay humble and charitable, and believe that when other people (especially someone as great as Glenn Gould) are making an argument, then there might be something we are missing. You may not fully agree, but to dismiss it as “irrational” and “idiot” says more about your capacity for patience and rational deliberation than Glenn Gould’s.

      • TruthIsSimple says:

        Well, then you have to realise for your own sake, as I did, that anything”rhetorical” or “sarcastic” is convoluted at best! Unfortunate that someone who was a talented performer could stoop so low as a human being! However, ego and judgement do go hand in hand!

    • Paganono says:

      Any instrumentalist who needs to diss Mozart to get attention is beyond desperate.

    • Le Křenek du jour says:

      Far from being age-dependent, your comment shows that such an unfortunate inconvenience can occur at any period in one’s lifetime.

      • Michael Morgenbesser says:

        Spoken like someone who knows and understands that no artist in any field of art can produce consistently great work endlessly. Some lose it after a time. And hey, we don’t know what they’ve discarded either. We only know what the artist has chosen to let us know about. Gould’s is a silly argument from a brilliant artist with, perhaps, too much time on his hands. He’s just playing around. My answer to him at the time would have been to play what inspired him and leave the rest to someone else (but it was entertaining).

    • Michael Morgenbesser says:

      While it’s certainly not out of line to opine on any great composer or period in their life, keep in mind a few things. 1) Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and even educated opinions from as great a pianist/mind as Glenn Gould can be contested. Was he s pompous ass at times? Absolutely. So what? He was an exceptional musician, and a fascinating character in addition. 2) Most artists, even great ones, have times when they’re prolific and incredibly creative, and times when they’re less so. The reasons are personal, and probably not knowable. Does it really matter? I say no. What matters is the work, and how others who play it relate to it and express it when they play it, if they can (unfortunately a rather rare occurrence), and if they can then communicate it to others (even more rare).

  • Ralph Bateman says:

    Well, they do say in the introduction that it’s light-hearted

  • Bruce says:

    Reminds me, for some reason, of the old joke graffiti:

    “God is dead — Nietzsche”
    “Nietzsche is dead — God”

    • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

      “To do is to be” — Nietzsche
      “To be is to do” — Kierkegaard
      “Do-be-do-be-doo” — Sinatra
      “Do me! Do me! Do me!” — Stormy Daniels

  • Occamsrazor says:

    My addiction specialist doctor friend told me that most of his patients who swallow a monthly prescription of diazepam combined with a monthly prescription of Seconal in one sitting, regularly report having the same feelings about Mozart. Just the other day one homeless illiterate gentleman said the same thing after this particular combination.

  • E says:

    Can’t help loving him! There is so much wisdom and knowledge of life that he slips into the parentheses and throwaway lines. Thanks so
    much for posting this.

    Another video on Glenn Gould: “Off the Record,”
    where the commenters say all the good they know of him.

  • Daniel Poulin says:

    This Mozart video (from U.S. public television,1968) was one of the most important “lost” Glenn Gould projects. The script survived among his papers but Gould himself had no copy of the film, and neither did the CBC or anyone else. About a dozen years ago, an American documentary filmmaker, Lucille Carra, discovered it in a television archive in New York, and she was planning to use it as the centrepiece of a documentary called Glenn Gould, Recording Artist—and that film is still considered to be “in development” but after all these years it’s doubtful that it’s ever going to be finished. She showed the Mozart video at a couple of film festivals but she and the Glenn Gould estate wanted to keep it as restricted as possible, so that Lucille could have a “scoop” for her project. That was a decade ago, and her film shows no sign of being completed. Not many copies of the document have circulated. It’s an important piece of Gouldiana.

    • David says:

      This is brilliant. Personally, I don’t care for the way Gould plays Mozart (though I’m a big fan of his with most composers) but his analysis of K491 is devastating and perceptive. The piece is indeed not up to WAM’s previous standards and Gould explains why. I’ve always wondered about the connection between this concerto and Beethoven 3, which seems so close in mood and yet is so much more advanced. We need people like GG to address the sentimentality of our musical icons and question their status. More please!

      • John Borstlap says:

        Bring them down…. the old fogeys standing in the way of progress!


      • Mark says:

        That’s a pretty bizarre statement. K.491 has long been considered among Mozart’s best. If anything, Beethoven’s C minor concerto is considerably more simple in its key relationships than the Mozart, where you have modulations to keys as remote as F-sharp major in the first movement. Obviously Beethoven was enthralled with the piece given their similarity and so was Brahms when he wrote about it. I feel pretty safe in trusting they knew good music when they heard it.

  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    As Lewis Thomas noted in ‘The Medusa and the Snail’ many years ago, this is a discovery of the kind that makes one want to take a small plane up and paint exclamation marks all over the sky.

  • Deborath says:

    As much love and respect I have for him as a pianist. His opinions are mostly delusional and odious to others musicians. Best to remember his interpretations nothing else.

    • Benjamin says:

      Deborath, why don’t you watch the entire segment before making offensively simplistic remarks? Make yourself a refreshing beverage and watch the video to the end. If it’s not to your taste, that’s fine. But just listen to what Gould has to say and you will in fact learn something. GG was so far ahead of the rest of us mortals; be thankful that he was so artfully eloquent and could share his thoughts with us.

    • Michael Morgenbesser says:

      Succinctly put. It also doesn’t hurt to remember that being a genius (or even great) at one thing doesn’t mean that person is great at anything else. Often, with greatness, comes ego, and the inability to understand that you’re not great at everything. Some great pianists can’t compose well. Some performers are great live, but not in the studio, and vice versa. Some musicians also produce their own recordings, and ruin them. Some musicians think they’re also great teachers or critics, and should not teach or criticize other musicians because they can’t judge others clearly due to their egos. Although it was fun listening to Mr. Gould act like a pompous ass about something as meaningless as comparing the quality of one Mozart musical period to another. Really? Nothing better to do? Bored? Hm. I would have advised him to just play what he is inspired by and leave the other stuff to others. Just saying.

  • Stuart says:

    He is entitled to his (frankly odd) view on late Mozart. Even with a viewpoint limited to Mozart’s works for piano, it is a difficult statement to support. His view totally falls flat when you think in terms of early Mozart operas versus the later ones. I have 230 gigabytes of music files on my computer and zero with Glenn Gould – seems right. I watched most of the video. Arrogant? Fake-posh? Annoying delivery? Yes, annoying.

  • Robert Roy says:

    Sorry Mr. Gould but you should stick to Bach.

  • Bone says:

    So much fun! Wish he were alive now to give us a rundown on how terrible Bach’s Goldberg variations are!

    • William Safford says:

      Not only would he have not done that, but he did just the opposite.

      My high school piano teacher attended a performance of GG.

      The encore was the Goldberg Variations–the whole thing.

  • Mario says:

    Ha ragione. Mozart è piacevole, orecchiabile, facile, piace ai semplici.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    One never gets tired of the sublime music of mature Mozart and also J.S. Bach. The music of Beethoven and all that came after in the 19th and early 20th centuries are too subjective to listen to on a daily basis. The most extreme case is Mahler, whose music is very exciting to discover, but for many the enthusiasm does not last a life time.

  • Occamsrazor says:

    As Toscanini used to say in his Italian accent: poor boy, he wasa sicka.

  • Mercurius Londiniensis says:

    An enjoyable film — in which the tongue is surely firmly in the cheek.

    Charles Rosen told me this story. He, like Gould, was on CBS’s books in the sixties and happened to be in their NYC studio on a day when GG was recording some Mozart sonatas. GG invited CR to listen to the playbacks. The entire take was, by intention, completely rebarbative apart from eight bars (let us say mm.151-8), which were played beautifully.

    Rosen: What on earth went wrong in measures 151-8?

    Gould (smiling): Well, I had to let people know that I can play this stuff properly.

  • Rob says:

    There are actually more people than you might think who don’t rate Mozart. I know he is a great composer but find it impossible to find an ounce of sincerity in any of his music and so much of it is inanely twee, so I have a lot of sympathy for Gould.

    • We privatize your value says:

      For sincerity in Mozart, try the “Gran Partita” KV 361.

    • Michael Morgenbesser says:

      Really? Seriously? How about a little historical context? Anyway, like so many brilliant musicians, Gould had an enormous ego and musical knowledge, and loved showing it off, on the rare occasions he reached out to the public. It was cute, fun even to hear him act like a pompous ass, but truly a meaningless excercize. Does it matter if he thought early Mozart was equal to late Mozart? Of course not. Hey Glenn, play what you like and leave the rest to others.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Most of M’s music is simply sublime, and when people cannot hear of feel that, they are excluded from paradise. It is a well-known fact that every soul leaving this planet is tested by St Peter on their understanding of Mozart, and if they fail, they are locked-up in purgatory where only Xenakis is heard, 24/7, until a longing has been built-up so great that the Jupiter symphony becomes an accessible perspective.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Try Ein musikalisher Spass:

      Seriously fun.

  • Tone row says:

    Glenn Gould demonstrating his love for Mozart:

  • Greg Bottini says:

    I love Gould and his beautiful alter-egos, and yes, his ability to sometimes obfuscate and entertain with his witty and intelligent brand of patent bullshit.
    I own his set of the complete Mozart piano sonatas, and they are brilliantly done. True, some of the tempos are unusual, but they are so awesomely played as to disarm criticism, even his own. These are not run-through performances such as some of Barenboim’s and even Gieseking’s are; Gould obviously worked hard on all of them and gave them a great deal of thought.
    Bravo Gould!

    • Michael Morgenbesser says:

      Let’s not lose sight of the fact that brilliant musicians, even the most eccentric ones like Gould, may be insanely accomplished at their specialty, but are still human, like the rest of us. They’re weird, egotistical, make mistakes, and aren’t great at everything. Their opinion, even educated opinions, are just that, their opinion. Speaking of Barenboim, as much as I adore some of his work, I heard a recording of him playing the Moonlight Sonata that I despised. All I could think of was to ask what the f..k were you thinking when you played this, and then permitted it to be released to the public? Just goes to show you.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        Dear Michael,
        I agree with you completely that “brilliant musicians, even the most eccentric ones like Gould, may be insanely accomplished at their specialty, but are still human, like the rest of us”.
        And some of my favorite pianists are (in my opinion) weaker at playing certain composers than others. For instance, I never personally cared much for Gould’s Beethoven, or Richter’s Schumann, or Gieseking’s Bach.
        But I think you may be missing the point that the video presented to us is wholly an exercise in satire: as I stated above, it’s a case of the brilliant Gould dazzling us with “his ability to sometimes obfuscate and entertain with his witty and intelligent brand of patent bullshit”.
        And he is, after all is said and done, a wonderful Mozart player, as is evidenced in the video (ignore the recorded sound as such – it’s an amateurish microphone placement).
        Ancora: Bravo Gould!
        – best regards, Greg

        • Michael Morgenbesser says:

          Dear Greg,
          I don’t disagree that the film was a humorous satire. Still, by breaking down the value of Mozart’s works into periods like he did, his words said something else, and I disagree with his very subjective premises, that he seems to be presenting as objective fact. There are times when you can evaluate a group of work as a whole if there’s some sort of theme (not unlike evaluating an artist’s period eg. Picasso’s blue period), but I think that it’s usually folly. Artists grow and change, and I feel that each piece is a piece unto itself. They are constructed that way for a reason. There are a variety of reasons why each pianist chooses the repertoire they do, and why they’re better at expressing one composer’s work than another. So, I question any value of Gould’s critique. My point was being a great pianist doesn’t make him even a decent critic. I actually enjoy some of his Mozart presentations, too. The great thing about great piano players, particularly, is how they take someone else’s composition, present their interpretation of how it impacts them, and what they want us to hear/feel/know. Still, we get to hear one example, recorded one time, at a point frozen in time, like a photograph. But, when we love something, we all love comparing. Eg, I love listening to Rubinstein and Horowitz play the same pieces. Usually confirms my opinion of where their music comes from within them. So incredibly special. Not unlike watching Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud act. Both great, very different from each other in approach. Olivier, more flamboyant than Gielgud, but really, equally wonderful. From what I know of him, I do believe that being controversial gave Gould a thrill. I have always enjoyed being a contrarian myself. The fact that it took this long to find this film says to me that he did it for himself, and never intended on anyone else ever seeing it. An amusing excercize, but really, meaningless fluff from a brilliant pianist, who was a musical snob. That’s alright, I enjoy being one too.

          Pleasure tallying with you.


    • SamUchida says:

      “… some of the tempos are unusual …” A tad restrained!

      In this video he plays the exposition (of K333 movement 1), with all its filigree, at 167 bpm!! The ‘orchestral’ effect in the finale mvt 3 I find amazing – specially the bass. I wonder if the tempo was determined by the program duration? The dropped repeats definitely were. Even in that case, a very interesting, motivated and exciting performance I think, accessible only to a virtuoso technique. Was his teenage Op 10 no 2 effort really faked?

      On the other hand, in another video on YT he plays it “double-beat theory” at 106 bpm. A completely different but also interesting interpretation! I must listen to the boxed set. There might be yet a different tempo/interpretation.

      With today’s K333 efforts, with only a couple of notable exceptions, you can fine tune the boiling of an egg (120 bpm). Pity.

      A great find Norman. Thank you. Your suggestion that such a public treasure should be held for so long in private hands, and may revert to such, disturbs me.

  • D** says:

    Mozart in his later years was not a very good composer? His clarinet concerto K622, one of his last works, is a real masterpiece. Other nice clarinet concertos were written later by Weber, Copland, Finzi, and others; they’re wonderful pieces, but I’m not sure they quite measure up to Mozart’s concerto.

  • Occamsrazor says:

    Gould is one of the most overrated pianists of all time, along with Richter. What he had was probably the highest quality trills of all time. The only one who can equal him in this department is Sokolov. I judge musicians by both the best and the worst of their output. His Beethoven borders on mental retardation and cannot be blamed on his prodigious drug use, one thing is to be crazy and another to be dumb. Gould is a great case for making a supreme effort on developing the sheer finger technique, trills, scales etc the way it was done by the old school pianists. That way your idiocy will be hidden behind a solid wall of gold and diamonds, most people in the audience will never see what’s inside and will mistake you for a great musician. Now we have people like Matsuev whose fingers are over-cooked pasta, the poor guy has to put a brick on the pedal for the duration of an entire concert to hide his idiocy. I’m not comparing Gould to Matsuev, the music world would not be complete without Gould while Matsuev is a good case for euthanasia. I dislike Gould but respect him a lot, he did what he wanted and how he wanted. If I could clone him I would do it in a second just to hear his opinions about say, Matsuev or Lang Lang.

    • Michael Morgenbesser says:

      Ok razor. Can’t let this go unanswered. I know, I’ve already said too much, so this is my last comment. Promise. I don’t consider Gould overrated, but he doesn’t belong in the same sentence as Richter. Richter overrated? PLEASE. If Gould belongs in the top 50 pianists(and he does) Richter might be in the top 10, or border on it. Really can’t compare the two. Gould was mostly based in the studio. Richter, on the other hand was great, but really known as one of the greatest live, in concert. Many who saw Richter in concert said he was the best they’d ever seen. Artur Rubinstein (my personal favorite of all time) eg. said that after hearing him in concert, Richter brought him to tears. Technique is important, essential really when judging great musicians, but transcending technique to the extent that the artist can express the piece and make the listener feel it too is what performing music is all about. Ok, done now.

      • Occamsrazor says:

        When I call Gould and Richter overrated, I mean overrated amongst the greatest. I think Gould is way higher than Richter who was a genius amateur. I love both of them as people and highly respect both of them. At their top they both were giants but they unfortunately could sink pretty low which shows some intellectual deficiencies. They were both tormented by mental illness, Richter in his later years was also a benzo junkie which explains his slow tempi at the end. My beef with Richter is that he didn’t play transcriptions, let alone made any. He was a slave to the ideological limits set upon him by the Soviet system and Neuhaus in particular. They thought the function of a pianist is to be a jukebox with a limitless repertoire played “objectively “, meaning without much thinking and G-d forbid adding a single trill or filling a cord. He’d rather wrestle a wild bear in a forest than do that.It had to be done so the competition Ponzi scheme could take hold for the next 80 or so years. We’ll never know what Richter really thought about the situation, he was a secretive man who preferred to keep his mouth shut.

    • Pertti Rasilainen says:

      When writing so detailed techniqal specialities among piano-playing – then it would be good to know all; everything. Dearest Occamsrazor, you forget for example Benedetti Michelangeli, Lipatti, Solomon among others. From Finland, the country of Sibelius, Pertti Rasilainen.

      • Occamsrazor says:

        Pertti, I’m from St. Petersburg, have some Suomi blood in me and a few distant cousins in Finland, the land of sauna and stubborn, taciturn people, the only ones capable of kicking Russian ass once in a while .

      • Michael Morgenbesser says:

        Pertti, I totally agree. Among the most amazing pianists on record. Please let’s not forget Rachmaninoff. Listen to this. I actually came across a CD of Rachmaninoff, playing piano, at an estate sale, and bought it for $2. Talk about incredible luck!!

  • Gould-Doubter says:

    Gould’s recording of the Mozart Sonata cycle is absolutely criminal.

  • V. Lind says:

    The introductory narrator says “he moved to Canada” as if this were some eccentric choice. He was born and educated in Canada and lived in Toronto.

  • Michael says:

    Thanks for posting. I generally avoided airing Gould’s Mozart sonatas when I was a classical station music director since some were recorded in a cynical spirit, but his musical analysis of specific passages here is pointed, before he dips quickly into some big aesthetic generalities.

    We might remember the practical aspects of Mozart’s life at this time: much of the Viennese-era piano music (like K.491) was for subscription appearances or publications that had to “sell,” and he had a family to support by then. Beethoven wanted people to like his music too, but if they didn’t, at least he only had himself.

    No one would call Figaro (the very next number in Mozart’s catalog) mediocre; it was intended for an aristocratic (thus theoretically more sophisticated) audience. But yes, Mozart was inconsistent like most 18th-century composers, with more frequent weaknesses the last year when he was hurried and overworked, which confounds a Romantic notion of artistic development ever upward. So let’s play his best works the most, which are just as great as their reputation!

  • fflambeau says:

    What an odd statement. Mozart in his later years composed: Don Giovani (one of the greatest operas ever written; and, his Requiem Mass), also one of the greatest written. He also wrote his 4th horn concerto in 1786. The greatest clarinet concerto ever written was in 1791.

    Gould may have known something about Bach but I don’t believe was a noted interpreter of Mozart. This may have had something to do with his absurd position.

    • Herbie G says:

      If Mozart had written only ‘Ave Verum Corpus’ composed six months before his death, he would, in my eyes, still be a genius.

      However great someone is, there’s always someone else around to splatter him with ordure. It’s pointless dignifying Gould’s views with serious debate; the world’s ovverdict on Mozart, and his two minor key piano concertos, is in. If there are detractors, fine. As for Gould as a pianist, some like him and some don’t. It’s no use arguing about it because personal taste cannot be supported or invalidated by any empirical yardstick.

      For me, music is food for the soul, and all this ‘deconstruction’ and laborious debate on whether this work was greater than that is about as relevant as the colour of the plate on which a wonderful meal is served. Neither do I like all these conductors and performers who are striving for ‘a new way to see’ this or that classical work. In that department, (and I shall be flayed for this, I know!) I have a particular aversion for Roger Norrington.

  • fflambeau says:

    Gould’s percussive, staccato technique just doesn’t work for Mozart. He couldn’t master Mozart, hence the frustration.

    Don’t believe me? Look at YouTune, Glenn Gould’s top Mozart works have only about 100,000 hits, Claudio Arrau has 45 times as many.

    Gould simply didn’t have it with Mozart.

    • Occamsrazor says:

      Arrau wasn’t a professional pianist. Gould, even though I dislike him, is a musical planet of his own. The only pianists on record who could play Mozart were Horowitz and Rachmaninov, listen to his Turkish March. But Rachmaninov could play anything and wasn’t entirely human. PS. I forgot Gilels who could also play almost anything including Mozart and who’s a giant among giants, Richter was a baby compared to him. As for YouTube views, a 2 minute video of a cat stretching and sneezing gets more views in a day than all classical music combined. Cats are fast assuming their rightful place as owners of the world. Damn, I forgot Rosita Renard, everything she recorded is the very top that cannot be outdone, including Mozart.

  • MacroV says:

    I completely agree that a lot of Mozart is overrated. You can keep any symphony before #25 and any piano concerto before about #17 (except #9); come to think of it, you almost never hear them. But his later works – Magic Flute and the Clarinet Concerto – are extraordinary. Not that big a fan of the Requiem, though (I must be one of the few who prefers the c minor mass).

  • David says:

    A seriously disturbed individual.

  • David says:

    And his Mozart playing is just awful.

  • That is fabulous.

    Fabulous just because it is a fine musician speaking to us about music. When does ever that happen on television today?

    This may be the first time I’ve heard Glenn Gould’s voice when there wasn’t a piano playing in the foreground. He is a competent presenter.

    I get the sense that he doesn’t seriously believe Mozart is a BAD composer but he does believe that will make for a more compelling program than the Bernstein ploy of cleverly revealing to us how genius a composer is.

    Gould knows he doesn’t have to be right, he just needs to be interesting. Mozart won’t be damaged by anything he says.

    I also get the sense that Glenn Gould has never given “a few weeks of theory lessons” to a five-year-old.

    Good luck with that, Glenn, wherever you are.

  • Funmi Fayanju says:

    It’s gotta be a tongue in cheek piece, considering the relish and feeling with which GG dispatched those 1st mvmt passages of K491

  • Drazen says:

    Light-hearted Gould indeed, even made an effort to play like some mechanical device. Can almost hear Wolfgang Gottlieb laughing…

  • Jerome Hoberman says:

    So I guess he didn’t care much for sequences. But the program is precious, even if only for a single sentence: “Within every creative person there’s an inventor at odds with a museum curator.”

  • sam says:

    Someone PLEASE explain to me why Gould is revered for his Bach. I’ve always, in 30 years, from the first time I heard him to today, thought he plays like a piano roll.

    He recorded the complete Beethoven sonatas and he plays them EXACTLY like he plays his Bach, which simply highlights the mechanical way in which he plays Bach. I can easily program my Midi to read Bach and Beethoven exactly as Gould plays them.

  • Occamsrazor says:

    Mozart is the greatest composer of them all. Bach’s music was created by God, Mozart music is what God listens to and Beethoven decided we can do without God. Beethoven is the most overrated composer of them all. If one doesn’t like Mozart while sober, it’s a sure sign of being in a wrong profession. Gould hadn’t had a sober day since his 20’s, everything he did has to be considered keeping in mind this truly tragic fact. His story is unique and heartbreaking, the world would be poorer without him.

    • SamUchida says:

      I spent five minutes trying to decide whether to up-vote or down-vote this short comment. I even tried Occum’s razor. Still couldn’t decide. I gave up!

    • Nijinsky says:

      I watched that for around twenty seconds, along with the comments, that’s enough.

      That Glenn Gould apparently thinks his regiment of strictures could create how Mozart (or any other composer’s music) should have been: it’s exactly such “logic” that is inherent in art that doesn’t speak. Not a comment on GG’s playing, just the fact that he really didn’t venture forth and compose anything himself to show how he would have wanted it. Neither was ANYONE preventing him from doing that.

      It’s like people talking about what’s wrong with the weather, or someone deciding that the leaves on a tree are just all sequences of each other, and they should be different, same with the branches. And they shouldn’t all just grow towards the sun.

      Mozart didn’t “compose” anything, by the way. He listened. He went there. Music became for him what it’s innate nature is, to be a home for his emotions, his spirit; even with the petty demands of the “entertainment” expected from Opera. The very cliche’s have content. Not because Mozart was a great composer, because he dared to give music a home, rather than the dictates of a society that were deemed “survival,” making music a slave to it as if that’s possible.

      I don’t even know why I try to respond to all of this. People worshiping Mozart often do the same thing, they treat him like some adorable music box, the greatest refinement there is, also unwilling to acknowledge the content beyond that.

      So what, O well, Never Mind


    • Michael Morgenbesser says:

      Sorry razor, I just can’t stop now. Beethoven the most overrated composer of all time? Yikes. You’re kidding, right? Early Beethoven was very influenced by Mozart, certainly. He then took the baton and ran with it, taking music to a new level, and creating some of the most stunning music of all time. You need to listen to him again, keeping this in mind.

      • Occamsrazor says:

        Michael, when I say Beethoven was overrated, he is overrated among the top 3. He was completely brainwashed by Masonic ideology which is simply substituting God with man. The subsequent degradation of musical art which ended with Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber is the direct consequence of Beethoven abandoning God. Among his excuses are his bipolar disorder, alcoholism and lead poisoning. In those times the unscrupulous dealers laced wine with lead acetate, also known as sugar of lead. His early piano music is worse than Czerny( I think Czerny etudes is very good music) and his late piano music is despair which is one of 7 deadly sins and should no more be the subject of a sonata than gluttony or envy. Lust, I suppose, could be, that’s where we have Skriabin…

  • Occamsrazor says:

    Aversion to Mozart is usually caused by envy. He is perfect like a feline or Kate Beckinsale who has trouble finding work because many people, especially women, are scared that such beauty can exist. He had all the qualities of Bach plus that feline grace that is painful to look at sometimes.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Just stupid.

  • Arie Dascal says:

    I admire his sense of humor

  • Peter says:

    Mozart does indeed “pad” this concerto movement through the use of sequences and repetitions. But these techniques allow us to hear how a composer develops an idea, in this case one idea. So there is truth in Gould’s analysis. But despite all of this criticism, he still saw fit to record the entire concerto with Walter Susskind and the CBC Symphony Orchestra!

    Tchaikovsky is another who uses sequences and repetitions to the breaking point (Fourth Symphony last movement). Bolero, O fortuna from Carmina Burana, to name only two are popular examples of how repetition can “hook” a listener. Isn’t the first C Major Prelude of the Well-Temperered Clavier First Book of Gould’s revered J.S. Bach a series of sequences and rhythmic repetitions?

    Whether he’s being sincere or just pulling our leg a bit, it’s still valid analysis and an entertaining devil’s advocate point of view.

    • Eric says:

      Try Bruckner for endless sequences and repetitions.

    • Michael Morgenbesser says:

      On and on we go. They ALL used repetition and sequencing in creating their works. It was part of the structure of ALL the different accepted types of work to have themes, for many cenluries. Being able to create incredible work within those structures is what made them so great.

  • Sergej111 says:

    Mozart used to compose with the multiplicator, all that boring recycled stuff … The great Prokofiev disliked him, too.

    • Occamsrazor says:

      Серёжа, I once had a near-fatal case of food poisoning caused by undercooked liver. For a couple of days I was producing sounds not unlike Prokofiev. You see, Mozart had to feed his family and he also was a degenerate gambler. He wrote plenty of musical wallpaper but his top achievements have not been surpassed. There is only a limited number of note combinations that can create heaven on earth.

      • Nijinsky says:


        Does the FDA know how inspiring bad food can be?

      • Michael Morgenbesser says:

        Razor, you are hysterical, for sure. But denigrating one composer because you prefer another is not of much value. We’re blessed to be able to listen to Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, etc. All great, all human (though sometimes it seems hard to believe), all who wrote some inspired work. Just listen to what you want to.

  • Marshall says:

    I think it’s hysterical how he got most of you all going again from the grave.

    One aspect of classical music lovers that is unattractive; they take themselves so seriously.

  • Martin Spencer says:

    The first comment in this list was inane.
    The variety of subsequent comments point to Gould’s intellectual pinnacle; few can climb it, and even fewer surmount it. There is no fat in his argument; only quality. Admire it or do something else with your time, but do not denigrate genius from the perspective of your smallness.

    • M McAlpine says:

      Well if saying Mozart was a bad composer is an intellectual pinnacle then I must be a lot brighter than I thought I was! When people admired the denigration of genius by people like Gould then they prove themselves as small minded as indeed he was when he was not on the keyboard. Sad really. Gave up playing for rubbish like this.

  • Edgar Self says:

    His parents named him Gottlieb Amadeus because he was Theophilus-looking baby they ever saw.

    Sequences: the one in the primo of K. 503, Concerto No.25 in C, is the longest since that in the first movement of Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, the first piano concerto. Tchaaikovsky, of course, but also Beethoven and Chopin, though more varied, and many lesser lights who wrote music by the yard, or though tthey did.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    There are people in this world who delight in their ability to bait others. More of them become lawyers than concert pianists, but since lawyers are also trained to resist being baited, lawyer v. lawyer ends up being a stand-off, although both make money at it.

    A concert pianist who can and likes to bait others has more fun because those he (or she) baits aren’t good at resisting. I suspect Gould would have enjoyed the reactions to this posting tremendously. Gould always enjoyed staking out an extreme position, setting forth the best-possible defense of his views (so you have to hear him out, and not react to just a summary or a provocative title), and then throwing that bomb in the middle of a crowded room and await results, sometimes with words and sometimes with performances (his Emperor Concerto with Stokowski).

    He stated this same view – that the best Mozart is the earliest Mozart – in other venues, including an article in High Fidelity (or was it Stereo Review?) if memory serves. Something about how a cleaning lady was using a loud vacuum cleaner while he practiced Mozart on the piano and that he came to realize that the vacuum cleaner noise was improving the music considerably. I do not agree with it, and I love K. 491. Those who cite the Clarinet Concerto have done a good job in finding a huge hole in the Gould thesis. But on the other hand, I would not argue with those who find the “Coronation” Concerto to represent no improvement whatever compared to, say, the Concerto No. 9, K. 271, or who find the slow movement of the String Quartet K. 156 to be as moving and eloquent as any quartet movement of Mozart’s.

  • Risdeveau says:

    This is hilarious. The intelligence and awareness and sarcasm addressing and analyzing a great artist provides us with a moment to consider both Glenn Gould’s and Mozart’s brilliance. No wonder he isolated himself from most of humanity later in his life. I am sure he would have loved to have heard Mozart’s response to this diatribe. You can tell Mr. Gould longed to be in the presence of individuals as extraordinary as Beethoven or Mozart. Thank you for posting this program.

  • William Safford says:

    GG extrapolated from that piano concerto, to make a general point about Mozart.

    So, is the issue really Mozart, or merely that one composition and a few others like it?

    If GG were alive, I would ask him to juxtapose it with other mature works such as (as others have suggested) the Clarinet Concerto.

  • annon says:

    Dear Glenn, Mozart on his worst day is you never on your best day, not even if God gave you an extra 100 lives to try.

  • Doc Martin says:

    Never liked Gould at all. Gustav Leonhardt, now yer suppin Diesel. Edwin Fischer wrong notes and all or Andras Schiff for Bach on Steinway. Paul Badura Skoda even better.

  • Edgar Self says:

    What Toscanini is quoted above as saying, he said about George Gershwin, who disagreed with Maestro’s tempi and conducting of “atta poor boy’s” music performed with Earl Wild.

    The pun in an ealier post isn’t original, but Richard Falvey’s. It’s the only quadri-lingual pun I know, comparable to Hugo Strelitzer’s quadri-lingual obscenities at L.A. Opera. Others might enjoy it. Gottlieb, Amadeus, Theophilus all = God’s love. The correct Amade didn’t seem to fit.

  • Nijinsky says:

    I don’t understand why he missed out on sequencing his critique abilities he might have been able to help modern violin makers display why their violins are as good as the overrated Stradivari, Del Gesu and other older varieties. Enough money in it, given how much they make from selling those over-rated violins crazy people prefer just for the image, despite all the money (hint hint, it [the money] would go to a better purpose)…

  • Max Raimi says:

    He was eccentric, but never dull. I frequently reread the collection of his prose put together with Tim Page. There are marvelous conversations with Rubinstein and Stokowski, neither of whom one might guess he would have had a lot of sympathy for. He had a very personal and rather consistent concept of what constituted beauty in music, and I came to respect it even if I hardly share it. And he wrote beautifully.
    Those who denigrate him in these comments are more than welcome to offer anything any of us have accomplished that compares to his discography.

    • Michael Morgenbesser says:

      Dear Max, You make a good point, but please understand that Gould’s discography has nothing whatsoever to do with the value of his critical opinions. Yes, his opinion has more value because it’s an informed, educated opinion, but it has no more value than any other educated pianist. And, in this case, is easily contested, as many others have shown.

  • Nijinsky says:


    About thirty years ago, when I ended up talking to the spirit of Mozart’s dear mother Anna, because the medium at first relaying the information started doubting it – which is what SHE said, in fact later I heard from the medium that he had been “blown away” by the love between me and Anna, something akin to Voldmoort’s inability to comprehend something he had never had – so she had to put him in a trance, the one shadow we talked about, regarding Wolfgang’s life, was a bit odd, because I actually had been thinking that Leopold wasn’t his genetic father, and Anna responded with her dry wit: “I thought the same thing at times.” So Leopold was his father, she would have told me otherwise, but that’s not even a comment on Leopold as much as it is a comment on the times, and what people thought and still do think “discipline,” is. Or what success is. In fact that’s a lot of the criticism of “Mozart’s” music, that actually what people hear is a depiction of what’s wrong with a lack of adherence to any set fashion, or in fact sometimes poking fun of it, whether that’s done consciously or not.

    We did talk about “Constanze,” and Anna’s respond was curious again, because she said: “I haven’t seen her for awhile, maybe she moved on.” Peculiar that she wouldn’t be more into or abreast concerning someone that was “so close” to her son. That then became more clear. I at first found it rather scary the idea that someone would have moved on beyond Anna, as if there could be such a thing in “Heaven.” The idea in itself was simply scary, as if I don’t know what difficult process with extreme harshness of discipline, but then did encounter how that’s “moving on” with a quite stringent “Christian,” able to work the whole system, and who evoked a quite unpleasant idea of sexuality as well. As moving on goes, which I’m not involved with…. But Anna was quite happy that things resolve themselves, despite what the world would make out of it.

    Since then, there’s a lot about Wolfgang’s life that’s turned up that no one really knows, and actually has been suppressed, stuff that were it known, the way society still is, would only make it worse trying to fix it. And that’s even beyond health issues, although it involves his “death.” Which I’m putting in quotations because there is no such thing, the body was never alive to begin with, the spirit put life into it but wasn’t even born into it in any “incarnation.” There was intrigue involving Mozart’s death that was suppressed then (although it was known to for example Beethoven, that’s perhaps why he wouldn’t be in the same room as Frau Hofdemel at first, saying she had been to close to Wolfgang)….and But the music itself does give home to those issues to heal them when “society” and all of its discipline can’t.

    I wonder whether I should spill the beans as far as I’ve speculated:
    Yes Hoffdemel’s husband had killed himself and tried to kill, or maim, her, but she survived, this shortly after the funeral, but this was not because Hofdemel would have wanted to kill Mozart, it was that he knew about intrigues against Wolfgang (they were both masons, freemasons weren’t even allowed free assembly anymore without being watched, and this is also why Mozart stopped giving concerts the last years of his life), and I’m sure he didn’t like her promiscuity added to that it would make more problems for Wolfgang and she was now carrying Wolfgang’s child. That might not be the only illegitimate one, also. But there was quite a bit of talk that Constanze was involved with poisoning her husband, and there’s as much logic to that given his symptoms as anything else, that would be because she was so Catholic, along with her mother (they were the ones suppressing the Masons), and she had gotten “medicines” from a “doctor” who could have easily put aqua tofana in it.

    One doesn’t even have to believe this, it fits perfectly in a murder mystery with a red herring, like something Agatha Christie might have written.

    And it WASN’T Salieri! Constanze would have little “concerts” and because Wolfgang had said that he had been poisoned with aqua tofana on his death bed, and there was talk she was involved, would gossip about this to try to make the connection with Salieri, and that poor man was so confused and hurt by it – simply because he had had more economic success, and thought his ambitions had disabled Mozart life, which really wasn’t the case – he actually in an asylum at the end of his life thought he had “poisoned” Mozart.

    It would be quite immense to start listing everything the Catholic Church has done, or “Christians” at all, but that’s also not a comment on Jesus true teachings, or that hating the Catholics is better than forgiveness, because forgiveness (which is the nature of music, same as air, water and other things that don’t stop within distance of anyone and think: “no, you’re a bad person, you’ve done blah blah blah) that actually erases the whole incident and restores reality, because that’s from forever where “death” doesn’t exist, and where the human spirit comes from to begin with. And I don’t think that’s unrealistic.

    And I was going to go to the park and be amongst the trees, before I was reading in A Course in Miracles and then decided to respond with a bit more resonance…

  • Animal Person says:

    Gould was an utterly brilliant and original pianist. No ones needs to like everything he did but there are countless moments of inspiration in his playing combined with an infallible facility and probing mind. His comments here on the C minor Piano Concerto must be taken tongue-in-cheek. His three performances of this concerto with Bernstein and the NY Phil were unforgettable. One is available on You tube here: It is marvelous, as well as his commercial recording with Susskind. He also performed in Vancouver. It was obviously a concerto he preferred.

  • fflambeau says:

    Maybe Gould understood the NL attitude before NL: say something outrageous and it will get attention.
    Say something aburd, and it will be greeted as super observant.

    In that spirit, I think Beethoven was a fake: he was not deaf at all. After all, what “proof” do we really have of his deafness? He just wanted attention and adulation, not unlike Gould.

    • Max Raimi says:

      If you have any evidence that Glenn Gould was driven by a desperate need for attention, I would be eager to see it. It certainly seems inconsistent with his renunciation of public performances. I would urge you to consider the possibility that he said what he said because he believed it, even if most of us see things very differently.

  • Nijinsky says:

    There’s something else I hadn’t added to the smörgåsbord of stuff regarding Wolfgang in my prior post, that can easily look like a traffic jam of conspiracy theories. There’s this skull:

    Which shows signs of a fall. there’s signs of hemorrhaging. I was told that was at a party in Wolfgang’s favor at an admirer’s house, and although he really didn’t do that much drinking, he got “smashed,” and wanted to be by himself, and fell hitting his head against a bench in the garden of the house where the party was. A bit parallel to the beginning of the last act of Figaro in a peculiar way. And now, there were reports that he stopped composing for quite awhile, and there are the letters saying he was yearning towards death (like the Countess), which he actually had perhaps experienced already, had he had a near death experience as a child, when he had caught something severe, I think in The Netherlands. It could have been of any of number of things he encountered during his travels as a child.

    So theres a whole multiple choice still, Mozart was killed by
    1) Over work and lingering childhood trauma, and a new disease
    2) The jealous husband of Hofdemel
    3) Poisoned by the Catholic Church with help of Constanze and her mother, because he had become a free mason, who already weren’t allowed free assembly anymore in Vienna.
    4) Poisoned by Salieri
    5) A head injury he had sustained
    6) Just to give Glenn Gould something to wave strictures at the multitude about
    And further more, having gone over the deep end:
    7) He never died but became part of the Merovingian cult, and so they mixed up the family remains of bones so no one could ever detect anything
    8) His old friend Thomas Linly, who was also reported to be dead, actually wasn’t, had swam the English channel after being resurrected to avoid his own funeral, and Mozart joined him after encountering him, which is part of the legend of Saint Germain, an underworld spiritual community. Again reason for the confusion about the preventing DNA detection.
    9) The Annunaki picked him up, and…. he’s in a time warp.

    Who knows why the DNA doesn’t match, if the rest of Mozart’s bones other than his skull, detected by Rothmayer, had been pulverized to make some magic Elixer (I think they did this with Egyptian Mummies or something, I’ve heard, why not try famous people’s remains) did they then go for other relatives whose remains were left over? And then they replaced the skeletons? Who knows what kind of strange cult like behavior….

    It’s just weird….

    And by the way Mozart did rebel quite a bit, even more than Beethoven who made a show of it. Mozart actually stepped away, all on his own, much more from noble patronage, to let the music speak also, and when he had enough of writing music for opera plots he didn’t feel were artistically satisfactory and cut a number of beginnings short, he then wrote Figaro, Don Giovanni and Cosi Fan Tutte, Figaro and Giovanni both making statements about the aristocracy and simply becoming a mason could be seen as a statement against the Catholic Church, as was the end of Don Giovanni, which he didn’t want to end with rat a tat tat the good guy is gone…. A poltergeist dooming someone to hell symbolizes a happy ending?

  • Micaela Bonetti says:

    Isn’t Gould playing this Mozart concerto just in a way to prove his negative opinion on the composer?
    C’est parfaitement réussi.

  • Micaela Bonetti says:

    Is’nt Gould playing this Mozart concerto just in a way that proves his negative opinion on the composer?
    C’est parfaitement réussi.

    • christopher storey says:

      Micaela Bonetti : I think you have put your finger on it ; if Mozart had composed this with all the added notes and harmonies put in by GG aka Sir Humphrey something or other , then it would be a clear indication of a diminution in his powers. But he didn’t ! And therein lies the genius of Mozart ….

  • Stephen Birkin says:

    How’s this for a dream documentary: Glenn Gould and Leonard Bernstein discussing Mozart? Oh, what I’d give to have been able to see that!

  • Ricardo says:

    He goes to rather grotesque extremes to make his point, but he does have a point. I’m reminded of Delius and his categorical thrashing of “The Immortals” with their “endless fillings and repetitions” or some such… Delius was a bit of a jerk, but definitely not an idiot (nor was Gould, by the way, although he certainly was eccentric as hell)

    • Brian says:

      And what point would that be? Mozart’s last works are absolutely fantastic. Gould having a tin ear about them proves nothing beyond him having a tin ear.

  • Edgard Self says:

    No need to choose between Requiem and C-minor Mass; we can have both, unfinished, the Agnus Dei of the Mass equal to anything by anybody. I remember gratefully an RCA 78 by Wilfred Pelletier et les Desciples de Massenet and a good soprano , if memory serves and my poor French doesn’t.

  • Paul Carlile says:

    Most enjoyable, and the best “performance” of anything by Glee ‘n Ghoul i’ve ever heard! A very witty spoof with some troof! GG didn’t really like music at all and just used phenomenal digital dexterity in a twisted and perverted way, impressing those who… to be impressed. His systematic destruction of all music he played is regrettable, (only Bach can survive this treatment), but his observations, writings and non-musical(!)”performances”- as here, are well worth it.

    Mozart is one of the most absurdly overrated/blindly worshipped of composers so i have some sympathy for GG’s viewpoint, altho certain other late Mozart is among his greatest.
    Thank you for an entertaining experience.

  • Susan says:

    Is this a joke? Only Bach, Beethoven and Wagner are in a position to say say something like this. Honestly, Mozart is a ‘96 Dom Pérignon Rose Gold to Gould’s warm Coca Cola. Next topic!

  • Doc Martin says:

    Is that the same Gould who predicted concert halls would close!

    Like Brendel, I prefer it if the performer plays what the composer wrote, not what he thinks the composer wrote or what he thinks is an “improvement” on what the composer wrote.

  • Edgar Self says:

    It’s ad to reflect that these are the late work of a man who lived only 34 years I expect only Schubert wrote more mioc in hi last two year.

    Mozart’s piano concertos 24, 25, and 27; Gran Partita, Masonic Funeral Music, last three operas, last two string quintets, last four symphonies, Adagio and Fugue in C minor, and Fantasia and Fugue in F minor for mechanical organ (transcribed successfully for string ensemble) are mature masterworks of genius, whenever written by whomever, many unlike anything from the ame hand. Imagine if we came upon them not knowing who wrote them, what would we be saying?


  • Brian says:

    It’s interesting that the sonata he claims to love as one of the examples of why Mozart’s “early” work is better, k.333, is actually now known to be a late work written around the same time as his Linz symphony, at which time Mozart would have been 24 or 25.

  • TruthIsSimple says:

    Egotistical and judgemental of Gould who from what I know was not an original composer himself!

  • Brian says:

    “later years” is relative – however, Mozart’s last three years produced some of his finest music – no question about symphonies 39, 40 and 41 being the greatest of them all — Gould was a weirdo, let’s just accept that – he played some things very well, but was awful at other composers – among the worst Chopin interpretations, for example

  • P McClure says:

    He plays a portion of a late Mozart piano concerto like he’s reading a train timetable, then proceeds to blame Mozart for being superficial. I tuned out at this point, because their are MANY performers who understand the idea of cantabile.