"The Best Example of the Truly Peaceful City"

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Sat Sep 27 22:41:14 MDT 2003

My friend Roland Sintos Coloma and I are organizing an event
commemorating the life and work of Edward Said at the Ohio State
University (to be held on Thursday, October 2, 3-6 PM, Location TBA,
a showing of _The Shadow of the West_ [written by Edward Said and
directed by Geoff Dunlop, 58 min], followed by a panel discussion).
As one of Edward Said's passions was Glenn Gould, I was rummaging
through my CDs, looking for recordings of Glenn Gould, so we could
play his music at the commemoration.

I happened on _Glenn Gould Live in Leningrad 1957_.  In an article
included in the liner notes, Michael Stegemann writes:

*****   Among the cities that Glenn Gould visited, there was, he
said, "a very short list that seem to offer, to me at any rate, peace
of mind -- cities which, for want of a better definition, do not
impose their 'cityness' upon you.  Leningrad is probably the best
example of the truly peaceful city.  I think that if I could come to
grips with the language and the political system I could live a very
productive life in Leningrad."

When Gould expressed himself in such affectionate terms in John
McGreevy's 1979 film portrait "Glenn Gould's Toronto," his one and
only visit to the city on the Neva delta already lay twenty-two years
in the past.  At the time, the fact that the then
twenty-four-year-old Gould had begun his first European tour with
four concerts in Moscow (May 7, 8, 11 and 12) and a similar number in
Leningrad (May 14, 16, 18 and 19) had been regarded as something of a
minor sensation: in 1957, only four years after the death of Stalin
and at the height of the Cold War, he was the first Canadian artist
and the first North American pianist to be honoured with an official
invitation from the Soviet Ministry of Culture to tour the Soviet
Union.  Gould himself was immensely excited at the prospect: if only
his stomach could cope with Russian cooking, he told the harpist and
writer Susanne Hamel in a letter of April 17, 1957, he could look
forward to some "fascinating moments".

. . .The program included four Contrapuncti form _The Art of Fugue_,
the G major Partita, BWV 829, Beethoven's E major Sonata, Op. 109 and
Alban Berg's Piano Sonata.  "By intermission, bravos could be heard
all over the hall."  Even after three encores (by which time the
lights in the hall had been switched off), the frenetic applause
showed no signs of abating, bringing Gould back to the platform for
yet another encore. . . .

In both Moscow and Leningrad Gould gave two solo recitals, an
orchestral concert and a "concert lecture" for students at the
Conservatory.  It was above all these two concert lectures, for which
Gould had reserved the right to choose whatever works he wanted and
at which he performed not only excerpts from _The Art of Fugue_ and
the _Goldberg Variations_ but also pieces of Schoenberg, Berg, Webern
and Krenek, which almost provoked a scandal, causing some of the more
elderly members of the professional staff to leave the hall in
protest.  For the majority of his younger listeners, by contrast,
this was their first encounter with the Second Viennese School, which
at this time was regularly dismissed in the Soviet Union as an
example of "Western decadence".  "It was a sensation equivalent to
that of perhaps being the first musician to land on Mars or Venus and
to be in a position of revealing a vast unexplored territory to some
greatly puzzled but very willing auditors", Gould wrote to the
photographer Yousuf Karsh [a photograph of Glenn Gould by Yousuf
Karsh, <http://www.archives.ca/05/0535/05350419_e.html>] on July 8,
1958.  "It was a great day for me!"   *****

* Bring Them Home Now! <http://www.bringthemhomenow.org/>
* Calendars of Events in Columbus:
<http://www.freepress.org/calendar.php>, & <http://www.cpanews.org/>
* Student International Forum: <http://www.osu.edu/students/sif/>
* Committee for Justice in Palestine: <http://www.osudivest.org/>
* Al-Awda-Ohio: <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Al-Awda-Ohio>
* Solidarity: <http://www.solidarity-us.org/>

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