Glenn Gould: Why I can’t play Chopin

Glenn Gould: Why I can’t play Chopin


norman lebrecht

June 02, 2021

From our Gould specialist Daniel Poulin:

Although Glenn Gould performed only one work of Frédéric Chopin for a radio broadcast, the Sonata no 3 in B minor op.58 on July 23/1970 he did play a few Chopin short pieces -Impromptus, Waltzes, Études- during his teen years between 1945 and 1950, always in Toronto. He once told me that he considered Chopin “probably the greatest composer for the piano” even if his music did not have much appeal to him. On September 1/1950 he gave a short recital -only 3 works on the programme: Bach Toccata in E minor; Czerny Variations on “La Ricordanza” and the Étude in C-sharp minor op.10 no 4 (Chopin). One of the private home recordings found in Gould’s personal belongings included the end of that Étude. Unfortunately the beginning was not on the tape.


  • Edgar Self says:

    Czerny’s Variations on La Ricordanza” was recorded c by Vladimir Horowitz in the 1940s and later by his young friend and protoge Ivan Davis. Hearing it was my first realisation that Horowitz could be even charming.

    • Hilary says:

      It’s also a reminder that Czerny is a much more distinctive composer than he’s often made out to be.

  • Ya what says:

    Well that wasn’t very good was it.

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    I love the sense of abandon, total release, from Glenn.

  • Armchair Bard says:

    He couldn’t? He didn’t? For this relief much thanks (as my most famous ancestor once wrote).

  • Kyle A Wiedmeyer says:

    So … why couldn’t he play Chopin? Is it just because the music didn’t appeal to him?

  • Ludwig's Van says:

    Well, God knows he couldn’t play Mozart… and he recorded ALL the sonatas just to PROVE he couldn’t play Mozart. Thank you, Glenn, for avoiding Chopin.

  • Aaron says:

    What a garbage article. Clickbait, pure and simple! The title suggests that the question of why Gould could NOT play Chopin would be answered, and in the dinky single paragraph of text shares that Gould DID play Chopin, and even has an audio excerpt proving that the headline for this article is, in fact, a lie. Who writes this drivel?

    • Ron B says:

      He played it as far as I’m concerned. Music should be for.enjoyment not a jury exam.

    • Federico says:

      I completely agree with you….There’s a lot of this kind of thing in this era of “progress and technological advances”. Pathetic. I was genuinely interested to learn the reason, as GG has always been a person who enjoyed explaining and talking about his musical views. Oh well….

  • Hilary says:

    More vitality in these 30seconds than the entire recording by GG of the 3rd Sonata which he dispatched as if it was by Czerny.

  • KrottorK says:

    Next up: Beethoven meets Mozart, a Haydn relationship.

  • John S says:

    So… where’s the article that discusses why Gould says he can’t play Chopin?

    Presented on Google Chrome’s newslist … yet appears as SPAM now 🙁

  • Kent says:

    Sounds like Glenn Gould “hacking” a Chopin etude. Think he needs to find a workaround.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Re Gould’s Mozart, here’s a vote for his C-minor concerto with I think Vladimir Golschmann conducting.

    • Daniel Poulin says:

      Gould played Mozart’s C-minor with Paul Paray (Detroit), Bernstein (New York), Louis Lane (Vancouver), Frank Brieff (New Haven), Walter Susskind (Toronto). He also played it in Stockholm (Jochum) in 1958. He never played it with Golschmann.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Th;anks, Daniel, I knew you’d know. I confuse Golschmann and Susskind, who both conducted in St. Louis. Gould recorded something else with Golschmann, then.

    • Daniel Poulin says:

      Gould and Golschmann were mutual admirers and friends. They played many times together, recorded Bach’s concertos and Beethoven’s first.