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Leonard Rose versus Glenn Gould by Steven Honigberg



We have a wonderful guest post for you today by Steven Honigberg, author of the new biography, Leonard Rose: America’s Golden Age and Its First Cellist (Beckam Publications Group).

Leonard Rose versus Glenn Gould

by Steven Honigberg

In chapter eighteen of my biography Leonard Rose: America’s Golden Age and Its First Cellist, I write about the great cellist’s association with one of the most eccentric pianists who ever lived.  Their association began at the Stratford Festrival in Ontario, Canada, from 1959 to 1969 that extended to a unique Bach recording project released in 1974.  It is ironic that the earnest, sober cellist, whether through artistry alone or some other quality, was one of the few artists Gould felt comfortable working with.  Historians concur that Gould was as unusual as he was rebellious. In 1964, after nine brilliant years on the concert stage his self-imposed retirement at age 31 made headlines. No musician of his stature ever walked away from the kind of fame he attained. “Oh, don’t listen to that recording,” Rose was fond of telling his students about their Bach recording.  “Glenn and I rehearsed all of it over the phone.” Evidently Gould placed numerous calls to Rose exclaiming, “Listen to this passage, Leonard. What do you think of this articulation and tempo here?” Gould proceeded to play long sections while Rose hung helplessly on the other end of the line. Gould unreservedly believed that Leonard Rose was grossly under-represented as a recording artist and urged Rose to make every effort to record the entire major cello repertoire. According to Rose: “He had one of the most beautiful piano sounds I ever heard, to go along with a prodigious technique and phenomenal memory. Glenn was one of those lucky few who could study a piece just by looking at it; he could learn a piece lying in bed with the music in front of him, and then go to the piano and play it.” Critics generally extolled Gould’s public performances except for his extra musical idiosyncrasies—hunching, singing, grimacing, twitching, swaying, foot-stamping, arm-waving, and time-beating—that disrupted from the flow of a performance. Rose relates another odd habit in his unpublished memoir. “He insisted on having a glass of water on the piano when he was playing in case he got thirsty. The water could not be cold—it had to be lukewarm … and at one of these concerts when we had finished a movement, he somehow managed to tip the glass of water onto the keys. I didn’t know what happened, but all of a sudden, I heard my name being called in a sort of whisper. ‘Leonard, do you have a handkerchief?’ I always carry a handkerchief in my right pocket to wipe my brow, and I handed it to him and turned around to see—an entirely wet keyboard!”

Steven HonigbergAs author and professional cellist, Steven Honigberg, complements his biography’s subject with a musician’s ear for language and the highest technical expertise. He currently plays on a 1732 Stradivarius (the “Stuart”), holds degrees from The Juilliard School, and combined with experience writing about legendary cellists, has produced a comprehensive first biography of America’s “first cellist.”

In 1984, the author was handpicked by cellist-conductor Msistlav Rostropovich to join the National Symphony Orchestra, a position he holds to this day. Within months, he graduated from college, presented his New York recital debut, appeared as soloist in Alice Tully Hall, and accepted the Washington job. And Leonard Rose died.

The author’s writing career began shortly after he settled in Washington, D.C. Most of his published work has focused on short biographies of renowned cellists. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, for a professional music trade publication, he wrote a series of columns under the heading “Remembering the Legends.” A few subjects were Leonard Rose, Pierre Fournier, and Frank Miller (who was Rose’s cousin and during Rose’s teenage years, a mentor).

His latest book is Leonard Rose: America’s Golden Age and Its First Cellist.

You can visit his author page at

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