A los 22 años Gould grabó por primera vez las Variaciones en los estudios de la CBS en Manhattan. Allí, los ingenieros alucinaron con el joven portento canadiense.
Columbia Masterworks’ recording director and his engineering colleagues are sympathetic veterans who accept as perfectly natural all artists’ studio rituals, foibles or fancies. But even these hardy souls were surprised by the arrival of young Canadian pianist Glenn Gould and his “recording equipment” for his first Columbia sessions. Mr. Gould was to spend a week recording one of his chief specialties, Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
It was a balmy June day, but Gould arrived in coat, beret, muffler and gloves. “Equipment” consisted of the customary music portfolio, also a batch of towels, two large bottles of spring water, five small bottles of pills (all different colors and prescriptions) and his own special piano chair.
Towels, it developed, were needed in plenty because Glenn soaks his hands and arms up to the elbows in hot water for twenty minutes before sitting down at the keyboard, a procedure which quickly became a convivial group ritual; everyone sat around talking, joking, discussing music, literature and so forth while “soaking” went on.
Bottled spring water was a necessity because Glenn can’t abide New York tap water. Pills were for any number of reasons – headache, relieving tension, maintaining good circulation. The air conditioning engineer worked as hard as the man at the recording studio control panel. Glenn is very sensitive to the slightest changes in temperature, so there was constant adjustment of the vast studio air conditioning system.
But the collapsible chair was the Goldberg (Rube) variation of them all. It’s a bridge chair, basically, with each leg adjusted individually for height so that Glenn can lean forward, backward, or to either side. The studio skeptics thought this was wackiness of the highest order until recording got under way. Then they saw Glenn adjust the slant of his chair before doing his slightly incredible cross-hand passages in the Variations, leaning in the direction of the “cross.” The chair was unanimously accepted as a splendid, logical device.
Gould at the keyboard was another phenomenon – sometimes singing along with his piano, sometimes hovering low over the keys, sometimes playing with eyes closed and head flung back. The control-room audience was entranced, and even the air conditioning engineer began to develop a fondness for Bach. Even at record playbacks Glenn was in perpetual motion, conducted rhapsodically, did a veritable ballet to the music. For sustenance he munched arrowroot biscuits, drank skimmed milk, frowned on the recording crew’s Hero sandwiches.
After a week of recording, Glenn said he was satisfied with his recording stint, packed up his towels, pills, and bridge chair. He went ’round to shake hands with everyone – the recording director, the engineers, the studio man, the air conditioning engineer. Everybody agreed they would miss the cheerful “soaking” sessions, the Gould humor and excitement, the pills, the spring water.