Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould

Kevin Bazzana (Author)


When Mikhail Baryshnikov defected in Toronto in 1974, he admitted that he knew only three things about Canada: It had great hockey teams, a lot of wheatfields, and Glenn Gould.
In Wondrous Strange, Kevin Bazzana vividly recaptures the life of Glenn Gould, one of the most celebrated pianists of our time. Drawing on twenty years of intensive research, including unrestricted access to Gould's private papers and interviews with scores of friends and colleagues, many of them never interviewed before, Bazzana sheds new light on such topics as Gould's family history, his secretive sexual life, and the mysterious problems that afflicted his hands in his later years. The author places Gould's distinctive traits--his eccentric interpretations, his garish onstage demeanor, his resistance to convention--against the backdrop of his religious, upper middle-class Canadian childhood, illuminating the influence of Gould's mother as well as the lasting impact of the only piano teacher Gould ever had. Bazzana offers a fresh appreciation of Gould's concert career--his high-profile but illness-plagued international tours, his adventurous work for Canadian music festivals, his musical and legal problems with Steinway & Sons. In 1964, Gould made the extraordinary decision to perform only for records, radio, television, and film, a turning point that the author examines with unprecedented thoroughness (discussing, for example, his far-seeing interest in new recording technology). Here, too, are Gould's interests away from the piano, from his ambitious but failed effort to be a composer to his innovative brand of "contrapuntal radio."
Richly illustrated with rare photographs, Wondrous Strange is a superbly written account of one of the most memorable and accomplished musicians of our times.

Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
April 15, 2004
6.38 X 1.74 X 9.5 inches | 2.0 pounds
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About the Author

Kevin Bazzana holds a doctorate in music history and literature from the University of California, Berkeley. A freelance writer, editor, and lecturer, he is the author of Glenn Gould: The Performer in the Work, a study of Gould as pianist and interpreter. He lives in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia.


"Supremely thorough and illuminating.... It is a Gouldian strength of this book that it acknowledges paradox, can find performances at once 'refreshing' and 'maddening.' Bazzana is also a little Gould-like in telling a compelling story as a succession of discrete moments, in some of which he steps outside chronology to consider abiding traits, preferences and quirks."--Paul Griffiths, The Nation

"Obviously a must for any fan of this great pianist, but it is more than that: Kevin Bazzana deserves all praise for producing a study worthy of its subject--expertly paced, admiring yet sensible, touched with wit and intensely readable."--Washington Post Book World

"It's difficult to imagine anyone doing a better job of writing the life story of Glenn Gould than Kevin Bazzana has done in Wondrous Strange.... This superlative biography covers all the important, and many of the trivial, aspects of the Canadian pianist's relatively brief life, drawing a definitive picture of an unusual musician.... A first-rate view of its subject, one that will send neophytes and devotees alike back to dozens of amazing recordings to hear for themselves the work of a musician whose approach was frequently offbeat, often maddening, but always worthwhile."--Chicago Tribune

"An ideally balanced account of this fascinating man and musician.... The trajectory of Gould's career [is] set forth with compelling sympathy in Kevin Bazzana's splendid new biography."--Bernard Jacobson, The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Bazzana's portrait--the most balanced yet--ingeniously provides contexts for Gould's behavior, situating his hermeticism in the dour Anglo world of mid-century Toronto."--The New Yorker

Gripping.... This book is a model of what a thoughtful assessment of a major artist and his work can be: coherent, complete, fair, and above all readable."--The Washington Times

"With Wondrous Strange, Kevin Bazzana, a leading authority on the art of Glenn Gould, has undertaken to give us the biography we have been waiting for--the life and times of a most unusual man, told with passion, intelligence, wit, and fair-mindedness."--Tim Page, music critic, editor of The Glenn Gould Reader

"A complete portrait of the artist and a thorough investigation of the psyche of an enigmatic renaissance man. For insight into this genuine genius, it can't be beat."--Booklist (starred review)

"Marvelously readable.... Bazzana removes the mystification, clarifying not only Gould's drive and musical taste, but also what came to be regarded as his eccentricities."--Toronto Star

"For those who already love Gould's performances with all his extraneous noises, this biography provides welcome and equal insight into his life and music, while anyone new to the subject may not even want to wait until finishing the book to run out and buy their first CD."--Publishers Weekly

"With 20 years of research, including interviews and access to previously private papers, behind him, Bazzana shines new light on eccentric pianist Gould. Basing his analysis of Gould's life and art in his early upbringing in Depression-era Toronto, he provides an original, thought-provoking take on the musical genius. Wondrous Strange is a compulsively readable piece of scholarship."--Vancouver Sun

"Well researched, well written, intelligent and fair, Kevin Bazzana's Wondrous Strange will be seen as the definitive mainstream biography of Glenn Gould."--Nicholas Spice, publisher of London Review of Books

"His book is powerful and timely.... Bazzana helps us to unravel many of the complex conundrums that have been tightly wound around Gould for decades.... Bazzana has gone the extra biographical mile, thoroughly and scrupulously discovering the exact truth behind inevitably embellished stories. Not afraid to pass judgment when needed, in clear, lively prose, Bazzana wins his reader's respect and trust in page after page of well-researched biography.... Glenn Gould will always be an enigma, but thanks to Kevin Bazzana's excellent new biography, he is now something less of a mystery."--Robert Harris, Toronto Globe and Mail