Synopses & Reviews
When Gould was paired with the right composer
he could make you wonder if he was altogether human. And reading Hafner on Gould is sometimes as much fun as listening to him play. And thats saying a lot.”Newsweek
Hugely talented and famously eccentric, pianist Glenn Gould fought a running battle with a long list of lessthan- perfect pianos. A Romance on Three Legs is the story of a love that changed Goulds life: his partnership with the Steinway CD 318, a piano whose peculiar action and temperament ushered Gould closer than ever to interpretive perfection. Katie Hafner weaves the compelling tale of Gould, his favorite piano, and the men who worked on it, revealing new details and nuances in the work and mind of one of the twentieth centurys greatest artists. Katie Hafner is a correspondent for The New York Times and the author or coauthor of four books, including Where Wizards Stay Up Late, Cyberpunk, The Well, and The House at the Bridge. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Glenn Gould was one of the most complex, brilliant artists of the twentieth century, a musician famous for bizarre habits: he wore a hat and gloves even on the warmest summer day; refused to shake hands for fear of germs or damaged fingers; hummed and conducted himself while he played; and traveled the world with a battered old chair, refusing to perform while sitting on anything else.
But perhaps Goulds greatest obsession of all was with a Steinway concert grand known as CD318. To explain that relationship, which Gould himself described as a romance on three legs,” Katie Hafner introduces us to the important figures in Goulds life, including Verne Edquist, his longtime, long-suffering, blind tuner. She offers a fascinating history of the art of tuning, and takes us inside Steinway during the war years, when CD318 was built. And she dissects Goulds life with the piano, from his first encounter with it to the endless coddling and tweaking that Edquist performed over the years. Hafner includes Goulds stormy, sometimes outrageous, correspondence with Steinway, and describes his despair when CD318 was fatally dropped from a loading dock. When Gould was paired with the right composer . . . he could make you wonder if he was altogether human. And reading Hafner on Gould is sometimes as much fun as listening to him play. And that's saying a lot.”Newsweek
A source of delight and illumination.”San Francisco Chronicle
This book is about the oldest human intoxicant: the quest for perfection. Katie Hafner describes in fascinating detail the entire human apparatusteachers, tuners, piano builders, sound engineers, impresariosthat 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
A pianist's love affair with his instrument, and the blind man who enabled it. Glenn Gould (1932-82) was one of the most respected artists of classical music's modern era. Piano tuner Charles Verne Edquist, on the other hand, is known only to a handful of music buffs. Both men were still boys in 1942, when the designers and manufacturers at Steinway & Sons began work on CD 318, a concert grand that Gould would one day conclude was the perfect instrumentand that Edquist would spend two decades tuning and revivifying from the pianist's hard use. It wasn't until 1960, four years after Gould became a classical bestseller with his recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations, that he sat down to play CD 318 in a concert hall on the top floor of Toronto's premier department store. It would be two more years before Gould connected with Edquist, who spent much of the next two decades adjusting CD 318 to meet the pianist's demands for hair-trigger action and lightning-fast repetition. New York Times correspondent Hafner weaves together three storiesof the pianist, the tuner and the piano itselfinto a single cohesive narrative, the musical version of Seabiscuit, as it were. She's not distracted by Gould's legendary quirks (the germ phobia, the grunting and whistling while performing) or his formidable loquacity. 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.”Kirkus Reviews
More books will be written about the famously eccentric pianist Glenn Gould. Perhaps none will be as intriguing as Hafners . . . Hafner gives us a book as rich and engrossing as the finest novel.”Booklist
This book's title is a quote from Glenn Gould in reference to his relationship with Steinway piano CD 318, the instrument on which he performed nearly all his recordings. Author and New York Times correspondent Hafner's recounting of his search for that instrument reads like a tragic love storyfrom the hunt for the perfect partner to attainment and fulfillment and, finally, the bereavement over the demise of the beloved. Hafner, in writing an entire book on such a narrow subject, reveals herself as an extraordinary storyteller. Of course, she has the benefit of the eccentric and iconic figure of Gould as the major player of her story, but she also concentrates on Verne Edquist, the technician who regulated CD 318; the factory that made the piano; the department store auditorium where Gould first met his love; and the life of CD 318 after his death. A book for Gould fans, piano lovers, and those who enjoy an unusual tale well told.”Timothy J. McGee, Library Journal
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.”Publishers Weekly
“A source of delight and illumination.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“More books will be written about the famously eccentric pianist Glenn Gould. Perhaps none will be as intriguing as Hafners.”—Booklist
Glenn Gould was one of the most complex, brilliant artists of the 20th century, a musician famous for his bizarre habits and obsessions. But perhaps Gould's greatest obsession of all was with a Steinway concert grand, which he described as "a romance on three legs."
Glenn Gould was famous for his obsessions: the scarves, sweaters and fingerless gloves that he wore even on the hottest summer days; his deep fear of germs and illness; the odd wooden "pygmy" chair that he carried with him wherever he performed; and his sudden withdrawal from the public stage at the peak of his career. But perhaps Gould's greatest obsession of all was for a particular piano, a Steinway concert grand known as CD318 (C, meaning for the use of Steinway Concert Artists only, and D, denoting it as the largest that Steinway built). "A Romance on Three Legs" is the story of Gould's love for this piano, from the first moment of discovery, in a Toronto dept. store, to the tragic moment when the piano was dropped and seriously damaged while being transported from a concert overseas. Hafner also introduces us to the world and art of piano tuning, including a central character in Gould's life, the blind tuner Verne Edquist, who lovingly attended to CD318 for more than two decades. We learn how a concert grand is built, and the fascinating story of how Steinway & Sons weathered the war years by supplying materials for the military effort. Indeed, CD318 came very close to ending up as a series of glider parts or, worse, a casket. The book has already been lauded by Kevin Bazzana, author of the definitive Gould biography, who notes that Hafner "has clarified some old mysteries and turned up many fresh details."
“When Gould was paired with the right composer…he could make you wonder if he was altogether human. And reading Hafner on Gould is sometimes as much fun as listening to him play. And thats saying a lot.”—Newsweek
Hugely talented and famously eccentric, pianist Glenn Gould fought a running battle with a long list of lessthan- perfect pianos. A Romance on Three Legs is the story of a love that changed Goulds life: his partnership with the Steinway CD 318, a piano whose peculiar action and temperament ushered Gould closer than ever to interpretive perfection. Katie Hafner weaves the compelling tale of Gould, his favorite piano, and the men who worked on it, revealing new details and nuances in the work and mind of one of the twentieth centurys greatest artists.
About the Author
Katie Hafner is a correspondent for the New York Times and a dedicated amateur pianist. She is the author or coauthor of four previous books: Where Wizards Stay Up Late, Cyberpunk, The Well, and The House at the Bridge. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.