Glenn Gould found Brahms ‘extremely sexy’

Glenn Gould found Brahms ‘extremely sexy’

Daily Comfort Zone

norman lebrecht

February 26, 2022

From Daniel Poulin:

The Rhapsodies for Piano, Op. 79 were written by Johannes Brahms in 1879 and are part of the mature pieces. They were dedicated to Elisabeth von Herzogenberg, a musician and composer friend. It was at the suggestion of the latter that Brahms, although unenthusiastic, changed the title of these pieces by Klavierstücke. They have a structure of mini-sonatas with a slow part framed by two faster parts. They are part of the last creative period of Brahms. For a long time, we thought we saw in these rhapsodies an intimate and epic work, as if in search of the Brahms of youth, the one who was passionate about chivalrous ballads. They do not respond to the improvised genre as their title might suggest, but are teeming with contrasts between their passionate character and their accents of tenderness.

Gould’s last piano works recorded in 1982 -he died on Monday October 4, 9 days after his 50th birthday, were the Brahms Ballades in February and the two Rhapsodies in June and July. The final recording session took place in New York, as was the case for the Brahms, in RCA Studio “A”. It was in September, the work was Richard Strauss Piano Sonata in B minor, op.5 that Strauss composed while a teenager.

Of his Brahms interpretation Gould had this to say, with an obvious smile on his face:

“This music or, rather, my interpretation of it naturally reflects the way I see myself as an incurable romantic… Not only that, I find it extremely sexy!”



  • Pianofortissimo says:

    A little hint to GG’s sexuality? 🙂
    Those recordings are wonderful.

  • Frank Flambeau says:

    The Glen Gould fix for the day.

  • John Borstlap says:

    This playing is ‘sexy’ as for some people a knight’s armor is ‘sexy’: hard, shiny and merciless. Also it is much too mechanical, framing expression into square regularity.

    Maybe Gould had not taken his pills on the day of the recording.

    How should it be done? Here’s Julius Katchen, the great Brahms specialist, who does not equal strength and grandeur with shiny hardness, and also applies a much more ’rounded’ toucher, and using subtle rubatos which cannot be notated and depend upon the musical sensitivity of the performer:

  • music lover says:

    He didn´t understand Brahms.Actually,he didn´t understand any music.It was all about himself,about his perceptions and views of music.Not serving the composer,but promoting himself.Using the music .Abusing the score as an acoustic underpinning of his views.Playing a piece badly on purpose,to proof how bad it was.Absolutely frivolous and without any artistic merit.Prodigously talented,he used his talent to build a narcissisistic cult around himself.

  • Oliver says:

    If by “sexy” he means dry and square, then he is correct.

  • Richard Westerdale says:

    I was taught by my alma mater’s piano professor that Glenn Gould was insane not only for his interpretation of the works of J. S. Bach but also in his personal life.

  • Heifetz 63 says:

    I have to disagree. Glenn Gould’s recording of the Brahms-Intermezzi is one of the finest, most sensitiv and heartfelt. Just listen to No. 2 in A major Op. 118!

  • Guest says:

    Whether you like Gould’s interpretations or not, he’s right:

    Brahms’ music is sexy.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The term does not seem well-chosen.

      The sensuality of Brahms’ music is the sensuality of touching the bark of a tree and of the smell of late roses.

  • Zachary Binx says:

    Gould’s weirdness is half of what makes him popular. I wouldn’t trust his opinion of what is or isn’t sexy. Obviously, he’s a narcissist.

  • Christopher Smith says:

    He was quite a lady’s guy in his youth….