When Schwarzkopf met Glenn Gould

When Schwarzkopf met Glenn Gould


norman lebrecht

February 13, 2021

There was no meeting of minds and the recording is a near-disaster, tempi all over the place.

Gould called Strauss’s “Morgen” “a rather terrible piece,” and said he must have written it like a “Beatnik simply sitting in his pad,” strumming chords on his guitar.

Schwarzkopf must have lasered him with a killer look.



  • Gary Freer says:

    Probably not used to the accompanist humming along. I remember the televised masterclasses she used to give in the 70s, she was so intimidating and prescriptive, no surprise if she wouldn’t wish to share the spotlight with a pianist known for eccentricity.

  • RW2013 says:

    Yet he found the opp. 3 and 5 interesting enough to record?!

  • Zvi says:

    As if I needed another reason to think Gould was an idiot.

  • Leo Doherty says:

    This isn’t a criticism of him but he certainly played it how he described it.

  • CYM says:

    There are better recordings, sure, but to call it ‘near disaster’ is wrong. ‘Tempi all over the place’ ? Isn’t rubato a DNA of late romanticism ?

  • Andrew P Bennett says:

    Oh dear , what a pity he didn’t have any artistic sympathy with this lied. The opening section should surely reflect the ecstasy of two people very much in love . What we get here is hardly the wedding gift Strauss intended , not even a Valentine’s Day treat! Schwarzkopf still manages to share something of the text with some warmth against all this instability.
    Did they just record this or are there other lieder they performed together?

    • Daniel Poulin says:

      Four Songs op. 27, Nos 3 & 4; Eight Songs, op. 49, No 7; Five Songs, op. 58, No 4.
      Schwarzkopf and Walter Legge objected to the release of the recordings. When she was asked to comment on Gould’s passing Ms.Schwarzkopf was the only artist who collaborated with the recently deceased to say bad things about him.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        That says more about Schwarzkopf than it does about Gould.
        And Legge was pissy just because he didn’t produce the recordings.

  • Larry Goldman says:

    Which recording are you describing as a near-disaster? Surely not the one posted here!

  • Tiredofitall says:

    For me, that one comment from Gould takes a god off his pedestal. “Morgen” is a minor masterpiece.

  • sounds like they are arguing with each other….individually great though, I think.

  • Jewel says:

    Oh!! I’d forgotten all about this recording. Thanks so much for starting my day this way!

  • Nijinsky says:

    Oh that’s nothing! How about when Joshua Bell couldn’t find his lingam and in trying to find it hissed himself into oblivia, his hair scattered ALL over the concert facility.

    I may be wrong but I thought Elizabeth and her side kick, they were both dead!

  • A. D. says:

    I’ve never found the recordings as bad as some make them out to be. The Ophelia Lieder seem to benefit from the tension between these two very different artists.

  • Marfisa says:

    Today’s research trail: look for the words of ‘Morgen’; wonder why somebody called John Henry Mackay writes in German; get sidetracked into Max Stirner, ego-anarchism, and Berlin boy prostitutes; return to the song and, to get the sound of Gould’s artillery arpeggios out of my ears, listen to Janet Baker magically blending in with a whisper to Gerald Moore’s perfect accompaniment (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYfn3jFtR5I), and Jessye Norman open-air at the Salisbury festival with the English Chamber Orchestra (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQP01pJQA7s).

  • Bitben says:

    Gould preferred counterpoint content so no surprise he did not look highly on this piece. But still a beautiful recording.

  • Y says:

    Should performers perform pieces they dislike?

  • M McAlpine says:

    Schwarzkopf complained at one point: “He’s improvising it!”

  • Edgar Self says:

    “Morgen” was her final encore at her farewell recital in Oakland/Berkeley, after which she left the stage, walking off to the right, looking back at us over her shoulder.

    It was not a happy collaboration with Gould. As soon as she could she recorded the three Strauss Lieder released with Gould with another pianist, for EMI.

  • henry williams says:

    it is strange with schwarzkopf. her father was anti nazi
    unlike his daughter

  • Enquiring Mind says:

    I hear his point about a beatnik strumming his guitar.

  • Helene says:

    Who could possibly expect cooperation between Glen Gould and the Hitler girl?

  • Tom Phillips says:

    Two somewhat crazy people with immense egos. But at least Gould wasn’t a Nazi.

  • E says:

    It is still beautiful, though. Thanks for ending one day, Saturday, and starting the next, with this.
    It made my days…made them better…than they would have been without listening to this.
    And as so often, reader comments have good leads for further listening.

  • BruceB says:

    I hear Schwarzkopf pulling the tempo all over the place (and singing out of tune here & there), and Gould following her with great sensitivity. When she’s not singing he takes a more straightforward approach, which IMHO helps avoid letting the tempo get bogged down.

    The YouTube video led me to lovely performances by Arleen Augér and Kiri Te Kanawa, both of which I enjoyed more than this one.

  • Shlomy says:

    Schwartykopf is awful , bad diction , cold as a cadaver but high-pitched.Gould is marvelous.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    “Near disaster”? Wow. Glenn Gould was often inconsistent in his comments, it really doesn’t matter, don’t read him just listen to. To my knowledge the only recorded “disaster” by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was her singing of Das himmlische Leben in Mahler 4 conducted by Klemperer (bad tempi, too fast, too much conductor control). Otherwise she had one of the most wonderful voices in the age of recorded sound, especially a magnificent Marschallin, the most beautiful Fiordiligi, outstanding Lieder (especially Schubert anfd Wolff), and very good also in Mahler (her Des Knaben Wunderhorn with Fischer-Dieskau and Szell is “my reference”).

    • BruceB says:

      I never could warm up to her, but I will say that her Donna Elvira in the old Giulini recording of Don Giovanni is extremely entertaining (and well-sung). She really commits to the “unhinged” quality of the character; and she trills her R’s so hard she sounds Scottish. It’s great fun.

      (I recognize this is a personal preference of mine and not a “fact,” so I won’t make any pointless arguments against her having a place in the pantheon. I’ve heard enough musicians I admire say critical things about Tebaldi, Leontyne Price, Nilsson, et al, to know that it’s all in the ear of the beholder.)

  • christopher storey says:

    I did hear some ensemble difficulties, but anyone who has played this song will know just how difficult it is . Managing silence is probably the most difficult thing in all performance

  • sibelius says:

    I particularly like Thomas Quasthoff’s recording of this song. For me, Schwarzkopf’s vocal production is so artistic that I just don’t believe her. I’m a sucker for Tommy I guess, I always believe him.

    • BruceB says:

      That’s an excellent description of why I’ve never been able to warm up to her. I have trouble with Fischer-Dieskau, too, for the same reason. It’s not the beauty of the voice, and it’s CERTAINLY not a lack of musical insight or subtlety of phrasing, it’s just… I hear the wheels and gears whirring all the time.

  • Paul Carlile says:

    Gould is still larfing at (most of) you, from Up There (or wherever..). He was a genius for everything except music, which he just played around with for his own amusement. He could tackle most things with his near-perfect fingers and fantastic polyphonic sense and control. But he simply didn’t like music! And it sounds like it in everything he played. Bach survives anything, but the rest gets massacred. Musicians and internut fans are dazzled by GG’s remarkable executive skill, charisma and talent on screen, on paper and as a “legend.” But don’t mistake all that as being musical!

    • Marfisa says:

      I agree. You hear Gould play Bach, suspect that something vital is missing, then listen to Andras Schiff (or indeed most other pianists) and realize what it was – musicality. If I said that Gould had no real sense of rhythm people would think I was mad, but that is part of the problem – his rhythmic sense is dead. In this ‘Morgen’ case, he doesn’t know how to breathe with the singer.

    • AlbericM says:

      Gould would probably been much happier playing chess.

  • Daniel M says:

    As I listen to this recording and compare it to others and really consider the intended tempo and tone the song is meant to have, I can see why Schwarzkopf would be upset.

    Gould’s tempos make thesong nearly a full minute faster than most and Schwarzkopf was not known to speed things up or even need to, but even if she did, Gould seems to rush the phrases while delaying the start of the next phrase at times. You can’t rubato must be established BEFORE a rest to make sense and at times Gould seems to employ rubato at odd moments while rushing through most of the piece. It’s not glaring unless you know the piece, it’s emotional tone and what it sounds like when it’s done well.

    This is not done well, and since this would be in Schwarzkopf’s wheelhouse and most definitely NOT Gould’s, especially the fact that accompanying other musicians was not something Gould would normally do as well as Gould’s penchant for being eccentric, opinionated and a loner, makes it very likely that Gould’s performance is the cause of how off this performance of Morgen really is.

    It’s odd that anyone would have even tried to force this collaboration when the evidence should have been clear that it wasn’t working. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say the label needed something with Gould to fulfill his contract and with his habit of obsessive perfectionism, they were having trouble getting enough work out of him.

    Two really amazing musicians that just shouldn’t have been paired together.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Does anyone else remember Gould’s recording of Strauss’s “Enoch Arden” with Claude Rains?