A rare trio from Glenn Gould before his breakthrough

A rare trio from Glenn Gould before his breakthrough


norman lebrecht

March 20, 2021

Stratford, Ontario is a small industrial town west of Toronto.

In 1953 a local businessman decided to create an annual drama festival focused on the plays of Shakespeare. From the beginning there was music too

On July 18, 1954 the violinist Alexander Schneider and the cellist Zara Nelsova joined Gould performing chamber music by Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. The concert was broadcast live on CBC Television in Toronto, Ottawa and Montréal in the series Summer Festival. The main work was Beethoven’s Ghost Trio and as an encore the Allegretto in B-flat Major, Wo0 39.

This tape has been recovered from CBC archives.

Glenn Gould was co-musical director of the festival from 1960 to 1964.



  • Daniel Poulin says:

    Schneider said that he had never before encountered a pianist who knew the violin repertoire by heart and he objected because Gould did not play with a score in front of him. Nelsova recalled that Gould brought the score with him into the concert hall and sat on it.

  • Malcolm Jay Kottler says:

    In another quote from Steve Honigberg’s book, Leonard Rose, America’s Golden Age and Its First Cellist, Leonard Rose speaks about Glenn Gould’s memory: “There are all too many people who are ready to criticize him [Gould]; but at one concert (Beethoven’s A major sonata), the television people from the CBC decided they wanted to make a production out of this performance. On the appointed day, Glenn and I arrived in Toronto. At one point in the rehearsal, which was before the cameras, the producer came out and said, ‘Leonard, that stand, that music stand is giving us fits. Do you, by any chance, know the piece from memory?’ The taping of the performance was the next day and while I assured the producer that I did know the piece from memory, I said ‘Glenn may need the music.’ Upon which Glenn said, ‘Oh, Leonard, do you want to play the piece from memory—I’ll have it from memory tomorrow.” And, of course, he did! He had that kind of mind. Glenn is definitely a kind of genius … (this performance can be viewed on YouTube)” (pp. 245-246).


    Festival 61: A performance taken from the CBC show, “The Subject Is Beethoven” (06.02.1961).

  • Steve says:

    If one is a Glenn Gould fan, there is a Sony Classical 10 DVD compilation of Glenn Gould’s complete Canadian Broadcasting Corporation broadcasts from 1954-1977, unedited and uncut.

    With respect to the comment about Glenn Gould not playing with a score in front of him and sitting on the score during the concert, I have an analogous more recent example. I sat in the front row for a Hilary Hahn violin/piano recital and although she had her music on her stand it was clear to me that she was not reading the music although every once in a while she did move the pages. I remember reading that because her pianist plays from the music on his stand, she puts the music on her stand too.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Glenn Gould, a genius of the first rank.
    Bravos too to Zara Nelsova and Alexander Schneider.
    An aside: I once played in an orchestra accompanying Madame Nelsova in a performance of Bloch’s Schelomo, a piece she was famous for performing.
    When she walked out to center stage, wearing a gorgeous gown and looking every bit a queen, all eyes were on her and a loud round of greeting applause occurred.
    She sat down with her ‘cello and her perfect posture and became still, waiting until all was completely quiet. It became so quiet in the hall, you could hear your own heart beat.
    Then she started to play that long, held, crescendo note that begins the work. It was imperceptible at first, then very, very, VERY slowly grew in intensity and volume until the hall vibrated in sympathy.
    Following that stunning beginning was one of the greatest performances I’ve ever heard of any work.
    And it’s one of my best memories as a musician.

  • They Call that Parrot 'Maestro' says:

    An old legend has it that two great mid-century conductors were bitter rivals. In an interview, one was asked “Why do you use the score but he doesn’t?” Answer: “Because *I* know how to read music.”

    • Greg Bottini says:

      “Because I know how to read music” (with no particular emphasis on the “I”), Mr. Parrot, was said by Otto Klemperer, and it had nothing to do with any particular rivalry. OK was simply asked by someone why he used a score while conducting.
      OK had a pretty sharp sense of humor.

  • Ashu says:

    An age ago, my psychiatrist in Toronto (himself a trained double bassist) told me the story of how he had attended a Gould concert in Stratford during this period. Gould came onstage and made an openly contemptuous speech in which he requested that there be no applause after his performance, saying that the sight of the audience clapping always made him think of a bunch of apes flopping their hands together. Then he sat down before the suitably cowed audience to play what according to my psychiatrist was a sublime rendition of a piece which I have unfortunately forgotten, but which I believe was a Beethoven sonata. The moment the last note sounded, the lights suddenly went out, and the whole hall was plunged in darkness for several seconds, until they went back on to reveal a stage from which Gould had magically vanished. The effect, said the doctor, was awesome and eerie.

    In 1999, I myself attended in Stratford a wonderful play about Gould, which had been made into the film Thirty-two Short Films about Glenn Gould – unless it was the other way around, the play being based on the film: I can’t remember.

    • Daniel Poulin says:

      Must have been on August 7/1960: the programme was an all Beethoven recital.
      Also: the play you attended in 1999 was titled simply “Glenn”, by David Young. It features four actors portraying different eras in Gould’s life and different aspects of his psyche. No relation to Girard’s Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould.