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Notes from the Past: WMC introduces Glenn Gould to Winnipeg

On September 28, 2022, Canada celebrated the 90th anniversary of the birth of pianist Glenn Gould. The WMC introduced Glenn to a Winnipeg audience for the first time at an afternoon concert on November 16, 1954, when the 22-year-old musician was on the threshold of an international career. His program was varied and technically challenging, including works by pre-Bach composers Gibbons and Sweelinck, five Bach Sinfonia, Beethoven’s Sonata in E major, and compositions by twentieth century composers Webern and Berg. The concert was “an experience richly rewarding in several aspects”, but particularly for the “amazing technical facility and intellectual consideration” of the playing. One reviewer wrote that the choice of program indicated “as yet a preoccupation with the objective, intellectual aspect of the music”, but none-the-less felt that “the fact that he is able to play such an impressive program and play with such a superb grasp of the fundamentals augurs well for the concertizing future of this outstanding young musician.” Shortly after his WMC appearance Gould made his New York debut and signed a recording contract with Columbia records, which resulted in his first and now legendary recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. He returned to Winnipeg in January 1956 and again in December of that year to perform with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. “Extraordinary”, “Fabulous” and “Words inadequate” read the review headlines. Glenn Gould returned a star, but it was his “sensational appearance” at the WMC concert a year before that gave Winnipeg its first opportunity to see and hear a man many thought to be a musical genius.

In the end Gould did not have the “concertizing future” as predicted. By choice, he gave his last concert in 1964, confining himself to the recording studio for the rest of his short life.

Mary Lynn Duckworth, WMC Chair of Archives October 2022 Sources: Winnipeg Free Press November 16, 1954; January 16, 1956; Wikipedia


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