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American Masters: Genius Within: The Inner Life Of Glenn Gould

Airs Monday, December 27, 2010 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Glenn Gould at his debut recording of Bach's "Goldberg Variations." Columbia Records, New York City, 1955

There have been other documentaries about Glenn Gould, a profoundly enigmatic musical poet, but they were typically sidetracked by his eccentricities, focusing on the pills and gloves and scarves — missing the man, the magic and the message behind his music. AMERICAN MASTERS artfully pierces through the myths and misconceptions about this humming and hunched figure, whose fingers glided across the piano as no one’s before or since.

Frame from previously unseen short film Virtues of Hesitation starring Gould (pictured). Nassau, Bahamas, 1956
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Above: Frame from previously unseen short film Virtues of Hesitation starring Gould (pictured). Nassau, Bahamas, 1956

Cornelia Foss and Glenn Gould on the cruise ship “The R.M.S. Segwun”. Lake Muskoka, Ontario, June, 1968
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Above: Cornelia Foss and Glenn Gould on the cruise ship “The R.M.S. Segwun”. Lake Muskoka, Ontario, June, 1968

The film unravels the layers of an iconic, but intensely private, musician who had a revolutionary understanding of the Baroque masters — and a sentimental love for Barbara Streisand and Petula Clark. Gould followed his sensational 1955 New York City concert debut at the age of 22 by taking his talent to the Soviet Union and became an equally prodigious star there. But, after a decade-long thriving international career, he defied the critics and shocked and disappointed his fans by leaving the concert circuit completely.

In 1964, he chose to focus exclusively on the recording arts, believing that this medium could create a transcendental relationship between artist and audience, overcoming the limitations of time and space. He used music to reach across language, culture and ideology, rediscovering Bach for a new generation and always, intentionally or not, perpetuating the cloud of mystery that surrounded him.

This film considers the western cult of celebrity that surrounded this reclusive artist — the myth is humanized and viewers are given the opportunity to grasp the passion and inspiration that gave rise to his genius and incomparable power of expression. Told with the benefit of his remarkable recordings and through interviews with those who knew him best — his lover, his manager, his personal assistant, his collaborators — Gould is revealed and newly revered.

Video

Trailer: Genius Within: The Inner Life Of Glenn Gould

Above: An enigmatic musical poet — and the most documented classical musician of the last century — world-renowned pianist Glenn Gould continues to captivate international audiences twenty-six years after his untimely death. "Genius Within: The Inner Life Of Glenn Gould" humanizes the legend, weaving together an unprecedented array of unseen footage, private home recordings and diaries, as well as compelling interviews with Gould's most intimate friends and lovers — all exploring the incongruities between Gould's private reality and his wider image.