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A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould's Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano Paperback – Oct 6 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
This evocative, detailed account of the compulsive search for a sensitive, highly responsive concert piano by Canadian musical wunderkind Glenn Gould combines the parallel histories of one of the most controversial and brilliant pianists of the last century and the incredible keyboard instrument on which he played for some of his most important recordings. Hafner, a New York Times correspondent, presents a fascinating biography of Gould, who was known for his quirks, including his wearing of winter gear on summer days, his donning of fingerless gloves while playing, his manic fear of germs and hand shaking. The book will greatly appeal to those intrigued by the history of the influential German-bred Steinway piano company, but it is the close interaction of Gould and Charles Verne Edquist, the nearly blind piano tuner, with a Steinway CD 318 concert piano, that lift the book above the usual biography. This book will aid the reader to fully appreciate Gould's creative work in interpreting the early sonatas of Mozart and his majestic rendition of the Goldberg Variations. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Hafner has clarified some old mysteries and turned up many fresh details, even some genuinely newsworthy scoops.”
— Kevin Bazzana, author of Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould
This book is about the oldest human intoxicant, the quest for perfection. Katie Hafner describes in fascinating detail the entire human apparatus — teachers, tuners, piano builders, sound engineers, impresarios — that made possible Glenn Gould's singular art. With the narrative force of fiction she explores the uncertain territory where unbridled artistic imagination meets the limits of an instrument, and shows us the emotional costs."
— Thad Carhart, author of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank
“Plucky New York Times correspondent Hafner …weaves together three stories — of the pianist, the tuner and the piano itself — into a single cohesive narrative, the musical version of Seabiscuit…. Drawing on hours of recorded interviews, she filters out the redundant and inconsequential to lucidly grasp the essential: the complex interaction among an artist, a craftsman and the precious tool they both revered. Written with authority and enthusiasm, a treat for armchair musicologists, Gould fanatics and even those who never heard a note he played."
“[An] evocative, detailed account of the compulsive search for a sensitive, highly responsive concert piano by Canadian musical wunderkind Glenn Gould….Hafner presents a fascinating biography of Gould…. The book will greatly appeal to those intrigued by the history of the influential German-bred Steinway piano company, but it is the close interaction of Gould and Charles Verne Edquist, the nearly blind piano tuner, with a Steinway CD 318 concert piano, that lift the book above the usual biography….”
— Publishers Weekly
“Reading Hafner on Gould is sometimes as much fun as listening to him play. And that’s saying a lot.”
“Hafner’s book belongs to that gee-whiz genre perfected by writers such as John McPhee, Susan Orlean and Mary Roach…. A Romance on Three Legs is a source of delight and illumination.”
— San Francisco Chronicle
From the Hardcover edition.
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was disappointed in the book and struggling to finish it.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Hafner relates how, quite by accident, Gould found the instrument of his dreams covered with dust in the back of Eaton's Department Store in Toronto. It was about to be shipped back to Steinway in New York. How this piano became the realization of Gould's ideal instrument involves the story of a blind boy, Verne Edquist, born in rural Sakatchewan. How Verne managed to rise from his poverty and handicap to be a very skilled technician and tuner of concert grands and Gould's personal assistant for many years is a moving story which goes hand in hand with CD318's story.
Hafner has carefully researched the history of the Steinway Co. and its method of producing a concert grand piano She tells in fascinating detail the intricate and labor intensive construction of the Steinway piano. Despite the technicalities of Hafner's description of this process, the reader will be able to understand and fully appreciate the making of the "Instrument of the Immortals."
Katie Hafner has taken this true story and created this wonderful voyage through intertwined stories of love and compassion. The feature story is about this eccentric, gifted pianist [Glenn Gould] and his search for his 88 key, life partner. But via Hafner's weaving of extraordinary detail, I found myself feeling close to this unloved, unappreciated, abandoned World War orphan piano [Steinway unit number CD318] and its quest for a caring home. Eventually the two find each other.
Then another compelling love story emerges. This one is about a once great manufacturer and its courtship of customers. Hafner takes us into the foundation and history of a last century institution called Steinway Piano. Like our `Breakfast of Champions' [Wheaties], we learn how Steinway goes to extraordinary measures to become known as the "Instrument of the Immortals".
For a while you feel that both romances are on safe footing. Then disaster strikes both.
Don't think of this book as a story written for students of music. This is a rich and enjoyable voyage about people, companies and their obsessive quest for perfection.
Hafner's keen eye and ear illuminate a world where tones take on the characteristics of colors-- and the qualities of fine wines. There's never a false step, and her style is so hypnotic and personal that even the laymen among us come to love this ugly duckling of grands.
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