An intimate reminiscence of Glenn Gould in his studio

An intimate reminiscence of Glenn Gould in his studio


norman lebrecht

July 30, 2021

Daniel Poulin has retrieved a recording of Beethoven’s third piano sonata to illustrate time well spent in studio with his friend Glenn Gould:

All the evenings spent with Glenn Gould in his studio at the Hotel Inn on the Park in Don Mills (20 minutes from downtown Toronto), the very place where he was going to suffer the stroke three years later, are well and truly anchored in my memory. One of them remains particularly rich emotionally.

It was in the fall of 1979, a gray and rainy evening as he loved them so much. As usual, I had taken a few records with me (vinyl, obviously – compact disc was not yet invented) including a rather rare version of the Concerto in E flat major written by Beethoven when he was only 12 or 13 years old. Gould had never heard it before and he was curious to find what it sounded like. After having listened to the entire concerto Glenn contented himself with a single comment, brief and definitive: “Without interest”!

Then, to my surprise, he spontaneously asks me: “Would you like to hear my last recording? I just finished editing it”. You can imagine that I was not going to refuse such an offer. Without telling me what it was, he gets up and installs the quarter inch tape on his beautiful professional Studer machine. He then invites me to sit in the middle of the room to hear the stereo sound emanating from his two large speakers. The work lasted a good half an hour and it was a Beethoven Sonata.

Believe it or not, I was not familiar with this sonata but I dared not admit it to a convinced Glenn Gould that I knew for a fact it was the very beautiful Sonata op.2 no 3. At the end of the audition in which no words were spoken -Gould had fixed his gaze on me from the corner of the studio where he had settled, near the long black draperies, making the mood so dark and almost sad, a typical setting of the Gouldian environment, Glenn asks me candidly: “So, what do you think?” What could I answer to such a question coming from the pianist I admired the most in the world and who had just given me an absolutely transcendent, almost surreal experience. “Just superb,” ​​I simply said.

“I’m glad you liked it”, said Gould. Adding: “You know, Daniel, that Beethoven Sonata goes way back in my life”. Indeed it did. It was the very first one he played in public. As a teenager he had played the final movement in a mini-recital for his fellow students at the Conservatory in 1946 (Oct.28). He then played the whole sonata six months later in a complete recital including works by Haydn, Bach, Chopin and Mendelssohn. And that’s it. Never again, until the recording he just made me listen to before it was released by Columbia months later. To this day, whenever I listen to it, I still get goose bumps thinking of that autumn evening spent with a man that so inspired my life.
Here it is, in its original version, not remastered.

Just the way we heard it, Glenn and I.



  • Wotan says:

    Good to hear but it’s not what Daniel Poulin heard with Gould, It’s mono and has some 12oHz buzz.

  • Nick says:


  • E says:

    Absolutely wonderful. The clarity, the sweetness of the second movement, the refinement of the choices in the third, all of it is just breath-taking. Thanks for posting!

  • Edgar Self says:

    Invaluable, Daniel, a precious memory that you recreate vividly in Gould’s studio with your intimate description. I heard Richter play this sonata and four others in a recital, and know Michelangeli’s and Schnabel’s records. It’s almost a cvoncerto without orchestra, with a written-out cadenza in the finale. A thousand thanks.