One in a series of evenings and special screenings presented at the Paley Center for Media. Held at the Paley Center in New York, this evening focuses on classical pianist Glenn Gould and a special fortieth-anniversary screening of a rare television program in which he plays—and bluntly critiques—some of the later works of Mozart. Host Rebecca Paller (curator, The Paley Center for Media) offers opening remarks and then brings filmmaker Lucille Carra, who discovered the “long-lost” footage in the archives of the Paley Center, to the stage. Carra gives background on Gould and the program, and then introduces pianist Simona Dinnerstein, who further discusses the controversial show.

The episode, one of the NET newsmagazine series Public Broadcasting Laboratory (PBL), was entitled “How Mozart Became a Bad Composer” and aired only once on April 28, 1968 at 8:30 PM. The program begins with Gould performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C Minor and then commenting that the piece has received “better press than it deserves” and sharing his feeling that Mozart was less prolific in his later years, comparing his later work to “inter-office memos” that are informative without being creative or unique. He gives examples of flaws, including “predictable chord changes.” He then refers to a television monitor on which English critic Sir Humphrey Price-Davies plays a Mozart piece and expounds upon why he feels Mozart’s later works are superior and more mature, and Gould explains why he disagrees. Gould states that Mozart had “passed his peak” before his early death at age 35, and plays further sequences, explaining why they are “cliché” and “rather inane.” He theorizes that Mozart had developed a “jaded world view” that caused his work to be something of a “self-parody,” and blames this decline on his “facility for improvisation” and lack of interest in using an editor. He compares Mozart to Beethoven, whom he feels is a superior improviser, able to “pretend” that he is ad-libbing and “noodling dilettantishly” while in fact being scrupulous, and he plays some of his famed Symphony No. 5 in C Minor to prove the point. Price-Davies’ work is then shown again, and Gould discusses why he prefers Mozart’s earlier works, especially those influences by his time spent in Paris in his late teens and early twenties. He then closes the program by performing Mozart’s Sonata No. 13 in B Flat Major (K. 333).

After the screening, the panelists take the stage: Carra; Dinnerstein; and moderator David Dubal (professor, Julliard School). The conversation touches on such topics as: whether a program such as that one could air today; how the “assumed knowledge and interest” inherent in the program is missing from today’s audience; how Gould “draws you in” with his style; his “unique” presence in a “dull” world and his courage to criticize Mozart so; how his style was internalized and not always “pianistic”; quotations from his biography, “Glenn Gould: A Life and Variations” by Otto Friedrich; his “infamous, mad” interpretation of Mozart which angered many; his own dislike of Mozart; whether there is one “correct” way to play Mozart or other composers’ work; the art of interpretation and Gould’s “integrity” in his playing; the use of camera movements in the program and how the audience is “watching him think”; the start of Dinnerstein’s interest in Gould and his influence on her music; a quote from Gould about how music should bring one to a “gradual…state of wonder”; an observation that he was “trapped” in the world of the piano; and quotes from Beethoven about Mozart and their effect on later artists.

Questions from the audience then lead to a discussion of the following topics: the challenge of not distracting a performer with camera movements; Dinnerstein’s experience being taped playing and the need to be “focused”; why Gould hated performing live; how the program was found and why Gould researchers never used it in the past; technical details about the program’s creation; Gould’s interest in technology and Dubal’s analysis of him as “narcissistic and sensitive”; the response in 1968 to the program and his current fame on YouTube; his role as a “true Romantic” in an age of “no individuality”; the “geometry” of his playing style and sense of formal structure in a time when improvisation was more appreciated; his “cerebral passion” for the piano; a blunt comment made by Gould about pianist Vladimir Horowitz; whether there is anyone similar to Gould in the music world today, with reference to violinist Gidon Kremer; and Gould’s very high posthumous sales.

During the panel, several recordings of Mozart pieces are played and contrasted; the performers include Gould, Maria João Pires, Robert Riefling and Vladimir Horowitz.


  • DATE: April 28, 2008 Monday 6:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:33:33
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: B:92302
  • GENRE: Seminars


    • Rebecca Paller … Host
    • David Dubal … Moderator
    • Lucille Carra … Panelist
    • Simone Dinnerstein … Panelist
    • Ludwig van Beethoven
    • Otto Friedrich
    • Glenn Gould
    • Vladimir Horowitz
    • Gidon Kremer
    • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    • Maria João Pires
    • Humphrey Price-Davies
    • Robert Riefling