The Goldberg Variations

It was my mother who introduced me to Glenn Gould.

At the time, she was in a high care home for the elderly. Every afternoon, she sat in her large comfortable chair and listened to a classical music station on her small portable CD player/radio whilst reading a book.

Listening to classical music was a long standing habit with her. It began long ago, after her days of playing the piano and organ came to an end with the birth of my brother and sister. Motherhood however never turned out to be a destiny she was comfortable with and it was then that she began studying part time for a degree in accountancy. From notes and bars to facts and figures.   

As the first born and the only child who shared her life when she was playing the piano every day and the organ at the church on Sundays, I was exposed at an early age to classical music.

During my teens and early 20’s, when I was in rebellion against my parents and blasting my ears out with rock music, there were nevertheless times when I listened to classical music and opera.

So there we were, further down the road of life, mother and son, she in a high care institution and me dual citizen on one of my temporary stays in Australia.  

After turning down the music, she began talking about the famous Canadian pianist, Glenn Gould.

Did I know who Glenn Gould was?

Yeah, I knew, I said off handedly.

No one who was interested in classical music could have not have heard of Glenn Gould. Three decades after his death, he still commanded an international cult following who regarded him as a kind of God. He was above all famous for his playing of Bach’s keyboard works – which is precisely why I had never bothered listening to him. Bach’s keyboard works bored me to tears. Too mechanical, like an old clock.

I wondered why all of a sudden she seemed so interested in him.

It transpired that she had followed a programme on the radio about the famous pianist and fallen in love with him.

Irrespective of my distaste for Bach’s keyboard works, Dorothy’s enthusiasm for Glenn Gould was not to be lightly dismissed. In the past, she had recommended soloists, orchestras and conductors, which I had taken an immediate liking to.

So one night I went fishing on You Tube, put on my headphones and listened to Gould playing of Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’ whilst working on a translation.

Then I stopped work….….

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