Why I Don't Copy Glenn Gould

The late, great pianist is Huang’s favorite, but if she tried to mimic his daring interpretations, “it would not be very good,” she says.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: What influence has Glenn Gould had on you?

Hilda Huang: So with my second teacher, when I was learning all the inventions, after I finished and I made just a recording for myself, she gave me this CD of Glenn Gould and said, "This is Glenn Gould, do not copy him." So I went home and listened to it and at first, it was really striking because it was so odd and we'd never heard anything like it. I mean the first invention, when the first couple of notes come in, it's pretty normal for everybody. But when the second voice comes in, it was so clear and so, it had such a fire underneath it that it kept making you listen and usually I listen to one piece and not the whole set. But after this, I listen to all 15 of them at a time instead of just one of them. And after you listen to all 15 of them, you realize what a genius he is because each one is so unique and they're all so special, but they're all unified and the ideas in each one are so peculiar and sometimes you're kind of wondering, "Wait, why does he even do that. It sounds not quite right."

And after listening to that, I gave the CD back to my teacher. And she's like; you didn't copy him, right? I said, no I didn't copy him and she's like okay, good.

Question: What was the music on that first CD?

Hilda Huang: The first CD was the two part inventions that my piano teacher gave to me. She loaned it to me. Then I went home and I bought it. And my mom bought it off of Amazon I think. We listened to it, loved listening to it, so we found more of his recordings and the most famous one is the Goldberg Variations. So we bought both the 1955 and the 1981. We also bought the suites, the Partitas, the English suites, the French suites. And I think just a couple of years ago, just two years ago I think, there was a LP boxed Glenn Gould memorial set or something like that, I think celebrating his 25th anniversary of his death and so we bought the whole thing. It was $200, but now I have a big box in my bedroom with 80 Glenn Gould CDs in it and a nice thick booklet with his own writing on each one of those CDs.

Question: What did your teacher mean, don’t copy him?

Hilda Huang: I think she was kind of intrigued by his unique interpretations. Of course, if I tried to copy him, it would not be very good. But I think she just didn't want me to play that out of the box, because his interpretations at that time, to her I think, were really crazy and I think some of them were a bit unacceptable. But she just wanted me to listen to them so I could see how other people played it.

Recorded on June 7, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman