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The Paley Center for Media Presents Rediscovering Glenn Gould

Monday, March 31, 2008

New York, NY— The Paley Center for Media (formerly The Museum of Television & Radio) presents a special fortieth anniversary screening of a rare and controversial 40-minute telecast, “How Mozart Became a Bad Composer,” starring the legendary Canadian pianist Glenn Gould (1932—1982). The telecast was originally broadcast as one of several segments on the April 28, 1968, edition of the NET newsmagazine program PBL: Public Broadcasting Laboratory. It aired one time only and was never released commercially. The Paley Center screening will take place on April 28, 2008, forty years to the day of the original broadcast. This will be the first public screening of the telecast since it aired on PBL. “How Mozart Became a Bad Composer,” begins with Gould’s satirical analysis of the music of Mozart; he refers to Mozart’s C Minor piano concerto, K. 491, as a morass of clichés of no more interest than “interoffice memos.” Later in the segment, Gould performs the complete Mozart Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, K. 333.

“How Mozart Became a Bad Composer,” which is catalogued and part of the permanent collection of The Paley Center for Media, was brought to the attention of Gould scholars earlier this year by New York-based documentary filmmaker, Lucille Carra. She saw it for the first time at the Paley Center while doing research for her latest film, Glenn Gould: A Three-Cornered World, now in pre-production, which will focus on Gould’s radio, television, and recording work. The work was not widely known among Gould scholars as it was not among Mr. Gould’s posthumous effects (now in the Library and Archives Canada, in Ottawa) or among the commercial videos released by Sony Classical in the 1990s, and it is not in the archives of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) or any of the other main repositories of Gould materials.

Following the screening, David Dubal, host of the popular weekly WQXR radio program Reflections from the Keyboard, will moderate a discussion with pianist Simone Dinnerstein and filmmaker Lucille Carra.  Dinnerstein’s recent recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations (Telarc) was No. 1 on the Billboard Classical Charts and appeared on several “Best of 2007” lists including those of the New York Times and The New Yorker. Lucille Carra’s films include The Inland Sea, Dvorak and America, and the newly released The Last Wright (2008), about the Park Inn, the last surviving hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Rediscovering Glenn Gould will take place on Monday, April 28, 2008; 6:00 to 7:30 pm at The Paley Center for Media, 25 West 52 Street, New York, NY 10019. Tickets are $15; $10 for Members and Students, and are available online at; by phone at 212.621.6600, dial "0" for operator; Mon to Fri, 12:00 to 5:00 pm; or in person at the front desk, Tues to Sun, 12:00 to 6:00 pm; Thurs to 8:00 pm. To find out more about the event, please visit:

On April 30, 2008, the telecast will be screened for the first time in Canada, as part of a film festival, “The Idea of Gould” (April 18-30), at Cinématheque Ontario, in Toronto—one of the Glenn Gould Foundation’s “Year of Glenn Gould” initiatives.

More About “How Mozart Became a Bad Composer”

The Gould segment begins with a slate reading “The Return of the Wizard”—the title of a Newsweek article on the pianist published two weeks before the telecast—and a voiceover by the program’s announcer saying that Gould will offer his explanation of, “How Mozart Became a Bad Composer.” Gould is shown at the piano sampling and talking about Mozart’s music, often in less-than-flattering terms. At one point, he dismisses Mozart’s C Minor piano concerto, K. 491, as a morass of clichés of no more interest than “interoffice memos.”

The director of the telecast was Kirk Browning, a leading director of performing-arts programs (including NBC Opera Theater and Live from Lincoln Center) from 1950 onwards. The executive producer was David Oppenheim, who, as a Columbia executive, had attended Gould’s 1955 New York debut recital and offered him a recording contract the following morning. Both Oppenheim and Browning have died in the past few months; Mr. Oppenheim on November 14, 2007, and Mr. Browning on February 10, 2008.

According to the Glenn Gould Foundation the 1968 PBL telecast is significant for several reasons:
  • It is the most barbed and controversial of Gould’s various public summaries of his biases and ambivalent feelings about Mozart’s music.
  • It is interesting technically: it is in color (Gould had made his first color telecast just a year earlier, for the CBC), and at one point the pianist is shown watching himself talk on a closed-circuit monitor.
  • It marked the first time Gould cut loose one of his comic alter-egos on television: the Gould who appears on the closed-circuit monitor is in character as a silly British musician mouthing (in a bad accent) conventional platitudes about Mozart.
  • It appears to be the first major production he developed under the management of Ronald Wilford at Columbia Artists Management Inc., in New York, of which he officially became a client on April 1, 1968. It was precisely because of Wilford’s connections in international film and television that Gould left his previous manager, Walter Homburger, after more than twenty years.
  • It concludes with a complete performance of Mozart’s Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, K. 333. Gould had performed the same sonata on Canadian television the year before, but the PBL performance offers a different interpretation, closer to the one he was recording around that time for Columbia Records.

About The Paley Center for Media
The Paley Center for Media, with locations in New York and Los Angeles, leads the discussion about the cultural, creative, and social significance of television, radio, and emerging platforms for the professional community and media-interested public. Drawing upon its curatorial expertise, an international collection, and close relationships with the leaders of the media community, the Paley Center examines the intersections between media and society. The general public can access the collection and participate in programs that explore and celebrate the creativity, the innovations, the personalities, and the leaders who are shaping media. Through the global programs of its Media Council and International Council, the Paley Center also serves as a neutral setting where media professionals can engage in discussion and debate about the evolving media landscape. Previously known as The Museum of Television & Radio, the Paley Center was founded in 1975 by William S. Paley, a pioneering innovator in the industry.  For more information, please visit

About the Glenn Gould Foundation
Established in 1983 in Toronto, the Glenn Gould Foundation’s mission is to extend awareness of the legacy of Glenn Gould as an extraordinary musician, communicator, and Canadian, and to advance his visionary and innovative ideas into the future.  The Foundation encourages others to develop projects concerning Gould and the field of music and communication. It has been associated with numerous broadcasts, publications, exhibitions, and conferences internationally.