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Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould cover photo

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould 2009

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Kino Lorber Edu, 333 West 39 St, Suite 503, New York, NY 10018; 212-629-6880
Produced by Peter Raymont
Directed by Michele Hozer and Peter Raymont
DVD, color, 88 min.

High School - General Adult
Biography, Music

Date Entered: 08/08/2011

Reviewed by Barbara J. Walter, Longmont Public Library, Longmont, CO

One of the greatest pianists of the 20th century, Glenn Gould lit up the classical music world at age 22 with his blazing technique and jaw-dropping, passionate interpretations of J.S. Bach’s keyboard works. Yet in 1964, just nine years after a triumphal New York debut, Gould abruptly turned his back on live performance, channeling his energies into recordings. What drove his decision to abandon the stage at the height of his career?

An eccentric genius, Gould carted a special chair and rug to every playing venue-- one interviewer describes them as looking like they fell off the back of a truck. He had an irritating habit of humming, loudly and often out of tune, during performances. No matter the weather, Gould bundled himself up in knit gloves and a heavy overcoat. A close friend relates how his home was unbelievably undtidy, yet Gould always knew exactly where he’d left things. Though he thrived on solitude and shunned the glittering social life of a star performer, Gould was enormously engaging in conversation, warm and witty in interviews. Were these idiosyncracies calculated on his part to bolster a public image, or clues to the private demons he strove to subdue?

Drawing on Gould’s diaries, extensive footage from concerts, TV and radio appearances, recording sessions and home movies, as well as interviews of his musical colleagues, friends and lovers, directors Michele Hozer and Peter Raymont craft an honest, moving portrait of an artist blessed with exceptional gifts and enormous powers of concentration who yearned for the stability and companionship of a “normal” life, but found them incompatible with the pursuit of his art.

Highly recommended for film collections in public and academic libraries, Genius Within is an obvious choice for use in music history and appreciation courses. It might also spark lively discussion in psychology classes exploring links between creativity and mental disorders—lists of notables who may have had Asperger’s Syndrome often include his name. Director’s cut includes footage not seen in theaters, deleted scenes and extra interviews.