GENIUS WITHIN: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

GENIUS WITHIN: THE INNER LIFE OF GLENN GOULD, opening this Friday at Landmark’s Opera Plaza Cinema in San Francisco and Shattuck Cinema in Berkeley, is a deeply moving and highly personal documentary on one of the most notable pianists of the 20th Century. Gould was 23 when he gave his New York debut recital at Town Hall on January 11, 1955. The following day Columbia Records offered him an exclusive contract. He catapulted into international fame the following year with the release of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. From that point and until his untimely death at 50 from a stroke, Gould would fascinate and challenge the Classical world with his daunting technical proficiency, his flair with the media, an unusual attractiveness, and daring bravado with conductors such as George Szell and Leonard Bernstein. His personal eccentricities – centered mainly around his fragile health and aversion to the social scene – are abundant and legendary. For the few and trusted members of his compact inner circle, Gould appears to be a possessive and difficult friend. And to the even fewer women with whom he was intimate – a captivating and complicated lover.

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Gould’s passion, his inner voice, is preserved in his music. The recordings are constantly in demand. Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould, co-directed by Peter Raymont and Michèle Hozer, is a journey through an unprecedented array of never before seen footage of the pianist – including photographs and excerpts from his private home recordings, diaries, and personal interviews with the most intimate of friends and lovers. His magic and attraction – it’s all in the details. As Producer, Raymont says, “Like Canadian painter Tom Thomson and Hollywood anti-hero James Dean, Glenn Gould epitomized the classic mysterious loner — brooding, articulate, sexy, he was who we wished we could be. So although several films have been made about Gould, when news broke two years ago that he had had a lengthy intimate relationship with the wife of an American pianist and composer [Lukas Foss], I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to explore the hidden heart of this mysterious man.”

Co-director and the film’s editor Michèle Hozer sees the mythical side of Glenn Gould’s story – the sometimes tragic Hero whose character is multi-faceted and contradictory. “At the heart of it all,” she says, “Gould is a great human story. By intimately looking at the man alongside the myth, not only do we understand a bit more about Gould, we can all understand a bit more about ourselves. We can all relate to wanting to achieve success, to make our lasting mark in some fashion, but is there a human cost, a personal sacrifice, and is it ultimately worth it all? No simple answers but fundamental and worthy existential questions to ponder. Gould often talked about the transcendental nature of music; maybe by losing ourselves in his music and his story, we can better find ourselves, or that’s my hope.”

The success of Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould rests in its ability to make you fall in love – and seek intimacy with – the man and his music.

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“I believe that the only excuse we have for being musicians,” says pianist Glenn Gould, “and for making music in any fashion, is to make it differently – to perform it differently to establish the music’s difference vis a vis our own difference. I couldn’t imagine a life in which I would not be surrounded by music. It shelters you from the world, protects you, and keeps you at a certain distance from the world. I do realize it and I know I obtain it through media. I know that I would have been very unhappy as a 19th Century man.”

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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