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Glenn Gould given honour

Grammys fete late Toronto pianist

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LOS ANGELES -- Gifted, ground-breaking Toronto pianist Glenn Gould received a lifetime achievement award from the Grammys more than 30 years after his death on Saturday, joining a select group of Canadians to receive the rare honour.

The ceremony was held at the historic Wilshire Ebell Theater in L.A. -- coincidentally, the very same venue that housed Gould's final public performance on April 10, 1964, after which he left a lucrative touring career behind to focus exclusively on recording.

Gould's former lawyer and the sole executor of his estate, Stephen Posen, was supposed to accept the award, but could not make it due to the Ontario storm that caused hundreds of flight cancellations.

In an interview in the weeks before the ceremony, Posen said he didn't need to think long about how the legendary musician -- and renowned eccentric -- would have reacted to such a gala.

"If he was asked to appear to receive the lifetime achievement award, he would have loved it, he would have been amused by it, and he would not have appeared," Posen said with a laugh of the famously private Gould.

"He would be happy to have it, and he would probably stick it somewhere in the back of a cupboard in his apartment. But he would not have participated in the notoriety of it."

Gould joins a small cluster of Canucks to have been feted this way by the Grammys -- which first handed out a lifetime achievement award to Bing Crosby back in 1962 -- including Montreal jazz legend Oscar Peterson, Saskatchewan-raised folk poet Joni Mitchell and the mostly Canadian Americana stalwarts the Band.

Gould, who died at the age of 50 and would have turned 80 this past year, was in similarly heady company at Saturday's ceremony, receiving the award alongside jazz musician Charlie Haden, Texas blues guitarist Lightnin' Hopkins, sitar maestro Ravi Shankar -- who died late last year, late pop singer Patti Page, Motown institution the Temptations and folk-pop singer/songwriter Carole King.

Posen says that while Gould is often acknowledged for his dazzling talent at the piano and daring interpretations of classic material, his innovative recording techniques have also left a considerable legacy.

"He taught ... the recording industry how to make perfect recordings by the use of edits," Posen said of Gould, who won four Grammys but only one while he was alive.

Of course, Gould's peculiar personal quirks have become practically as well-documented as his piano prowess: he wore heavy clothing year-round, sat on the same worn-out chair each time he sat at the piano, kept meticulous control over the temperature at any of his performances and typically hummed loudly to himself as he played.

Posen says he and Gould were "friendly," although he notes it was hard to get particularly close to the reclusive pianist.

"I don't know he would define friendship," Posen said.

"We spent some time together, but he's not the type of guy you'd just go out to dinner with."

Still, Posen's dedication to Gould is obvious -- he concedes that he got teary-eyed upon hearing the news of Gould's induction.

And while the brilliant Gould's personal behaviour could be occasionally difficult to understand, Posen has little doubt about how he would have felt about this honour.

"The lifetime achievement award from the Grammys is the pinnacle of a career of a recording artist -- and Gould was, above all else, a recording artist, that's how he chose to pursue his career, and he pursued it to perfection," Posen said.

"I think, honestly, despite his amusement, he'd probably be very, very proud of it. And he should be because it's a great honour."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 10, 2013 A14

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