Death of Glenn Gould’s blind piano tuner

The Glenn Gould Foundation mourns the passing of Verne Edquist, Glenn Gould’s long-time piano technician.

 

Born blind in Saskatchewan, Verne received vocational training at the Ontario School for the Blind and started work as a teenager in Toronto piano factories.

He tuned pianos for Gina Bachauer, Emil Gilels and Victor Borge, but turned down Gould at first because Gould was notorious for firing his Steinway technicians and tuners. Eventually they worked together as friends for 20 years.

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  • Verne Edquist was one of three piano tuners Gould trusted. The first one was Bill Hupfer who became famous for the wrong reason. Gould had sued Steinway for 300 thousand dollars in the early 60’s claiming that Hupfer injured his shoulders thus forcing him to cancel some concerts. A settlement was reached out of courts but Steinway had to find another tuner for Gould. His name was Franz Mohr whose relationship with Gould lasted a good twenty years. The two became friends. Mohr also tuned pianos for Rubinstein, Horowitz, Gilels and Cliburn.

    • The story goes as follows. Hupfer had been at the Columbia Records Studio in New York preparing Gould’s piano for a recording session. As he finished tuning the instrument Gould arrived. Everyone knew that Gould was very particular about his hands, so Hupfer did not greet him with a handshake. Instead, he rested his hands on the artist’s shoulder and said “Glad to see you; how are you Glenn?” Gould became furious when Hupfer touched him. He later claimed that Hupfer had injured his shoulder. Not Gould’s most glorious episode.

  • Many thanks, Amos and Daniel Poulin, for your additional information What a strange story. I assume Gould did not stay under contract to Steinway after the lawsuit.

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