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27 December 2010 (USA)  »

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The story of a great artist
3 February 2015 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

Glenn Gould is a name I'm familiar with. I knew he was a great Canadian pianist who died relatively young. I also knew he was something of a Canadian icon, one of our own who performed well and achieved fame abroad, a criterion in Canada for judging how talented Canadians are.

Watching this documentary, these views were reinforced. But it allows people who are still living and were close to the man to tell us about his compositions, his triumphs abroad in Russia and New York, the training from the adoring parents of their only child, his hypochondria and eccentricities, and the impressions of colleagues, family and the women in his life.

Cornelia Foss talked about the time she and her two children spent with him from 1968 to 1972. She left her husband to be with him and continued to see her husband on occasion in a compatible life triangle. Her children grew close to Gould and he to them. Foss reported that he would have been an excellent father if he had his own children. This period was said to be the happiest of his life. However, Gould's erratic behaviour forced Foss to return to her husband. Gould tried unsuccessfully to woo her back.

We see film footage of the man as he walks along the leafy street in his hometown or along a stream in the woods. One piece of black and white film from mid-century shows him talking to a New York cab driver as he arrives amid the skyscrapers of Manhattan. There are photographs from his childhood and his mother, his first teacher. One colleague talks about his drive to become great and how he spent whole evenings at the piano, even as his parents tried to sleep.

Another woman, who fell in love with him early in his career, found him sort of romantic but Gould's first love was the piano. Colleagues found him become too obsessed with technical details. His public spontaneity eventually changed and he became more reclusive and his appearances scripted. He aged and kept detailed notes about his health. He was also taking a lot of pills for various ailments, real or imagined. At the age of fifty, he suffered a series of strokes which lead to his death.

This work with its interviews and actual film from the artist's life gives viewers a full appreciation of a great artist and his legacy.

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