Unheard early Gould: He plays Beethoven without humming

Unheard early Gould: He plays Beethoven without humming


norman lebrecht

February 09, 2021

Our friend Daniel Poulin has unearthed a radio broadcast from October 1952, soon after Glenn turned 20.

It’s a completely straight and unfussy account of Beethoven’s opus 49/1, apparently the only time he ever played that sonata.

You hear it here first.



  • Rogerio says:

    I do not pretend to be able to judge the quality of piano playing.
    But I will say this: I much rather listen to Gould humming than hear him speak.

  • A.L. says:

    If only Gould had not grown contemptuous of the Great man.

  • Daniel Poulin says:

    First: many thanks to Brian Andrew Leahy for editing this Sonata from the complete radio broadcast of Octobet 5/1952, just a few days after Glenn’s 20th b/day. Second: an anecdote re: Beethoven’s op.49. Another great pianist of the 20th century Walter Gieseking, a true phenomenon -he learned to play the piano all by himself at the age of 3 before reading and writing and performed all 32 Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas when only 20 years old (six recitals). He played the whole set by memory, except for the two so-called easy sonatas of op.49. As a trait of subtle humor, he used the score only for those two, playing the other 30 by heart.

  • microview says:

    Hardly a difficult sonata. Playing sounds mechanical and obvious to me.

    • Patricia says:

      As usual.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Of course you have a right to your own opinion, “microview”, but what *I* hear is lovely, poised playing with true grace on the little turns and flourishes. I’d be delighted to hear a performance like this in the recital hall.
      And in your opinion it is not a “difficult” sonata. Compared to the Hammerklavier, perhaps it isn’t. But can YOU play it this well?

  • 18mebrumaire says:

    Love the way GG wipes the snot on his upper sleeve! Presumably an early example of HIP.

  • Nijinsky says:

    Good! He should have stuck with Beethoven. That’s decent at least. It’s not like in Mozart, every time he can’t quite follow the beauty of it that the angels stuck in a nuance indication saying: “maliziosamente fuori con l’ombrello per favore”

  • Edgar Self says:

    I like the Op. 49 works, but they are really sonatinas that brother Carl sold a publisher without Beethoven’s permission. Good Gieseking story, Daniel.

    • AlbericM says:

      True, but better they become known during his lifetime rather than, like Fuer Elise, have to wait 40 years to emerge. Aside from the Adagios of the _Moonlight_ and _Pathetique_, these were the first Beethoven Sonatas I learned as a child (and following Clementi’s Op. 36 set). I never greatly enjoyed the Sonatine in G, Op. 79, but I dearly love the one in F#, Op. 78– another pair of sonatinas released together.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Just so, Alberic. I was thinking of the Sonatine in G, and I also love Op. 78. Some of these could be seen as early experiments with two-movement form. Sonata No. 9 in E is sometimes asssigned younger students.

  • Rudy says:

    Thanks for the link !! And PLEASE do not forget Leontyne Price’s birthay, another GREAT artist this continent had !!

  • MK says:

    It was included on the “Original CBC Broadcasts” CDC issued by CBC Records in 1997, PSCD 2013.

  • MK says:

    It was included on the “Original CBC Broadcasts” CD issued by CBC Records in 1997, PSCD 2013.

  • Superbe says:

    Awful!I zapped after 15( seconds!