Glenn Gould´s Grand Piano

CD 318


At Grandpianohall we are fans of Glenn Gould, the famous Canadian pianist mostly known for his Bach interpretations. So this entry is about his most well-known and much written about grand piano, a Steinway D from the Concert Division (of Steinway) numbered 318, hence the name CD 318. The serial number of the instrument is 317194, which indicates that the instrument was built in the Steinway factory in Queens NY in 1945.


As most concert pianists, Glenn Gould seemed to have been very picky about finding the right instrument for his recordings and concerts (he was still giving them at the time). In 1960 he needed a new one, after a transport accident had destroyed his Steinway 174. He tried out many instruments at the Steinway factory in New York and wasn´t satisfied with any of them.


He then remembered a Steinway D he had played on when he was still a child at Eaton´s in Toronto and that was CD 318 – which Steinway then »lent« to him. He apparently adored the lean and bright sound of it and its quick and tight action. A lot of work was done still on the D model to make the action lighter than was the Steinway norm. I guess Glenn Gould was one of the most demanding clients for the Steinway technicians at the time. That so much work was done on an instrument which still belonged to Steinway (Gould bought it only in 1980) was quite special. How did it sound? See or listen to the videos below.


For the next couple of years the CD 318 traveled with him to all places where he gave concerts (until 1964). He used the grand piano for almost all his recordings with Columbia until about 1980, so the instrument did a lot of travel between foremost Toronto and New York, where the recording studio of Columbia was located.


In 1971 CD 318 was transported to Cleveland, where Gould promised to record the B major Beethoven piano concerto and the A minor concerto of Grieg with an orchestra to everybody´s surprise after a supposed concert pause of 7 years. The piano went, but Gould didn´t go apparently because he had the flu. The end of the story was, that the recording didn´t take place and the piano had to be transported back to Toronto. On its way back, the piano fell of a ramp and the instrument was seriously damaged: the plate was broken at 4 different areas, the keys had sprung out and the soundboard was splittered. It took Steinway a long long time to repair that one, and though after the repair it turned out that the sound quality hadn´t suffered, the mechanics were different then before. Gould still played on it until about 1980, when he decided to record on a Yamaha C9 grand piano, which he used in his 2nd recording of the Goldberg Variations in 1981.


So what is my point? Gould played on a used Steinway Grand for 20 years. He had the instrument changed in a way so that it perfectly suited his needs as a pianist. And last but not least: at home he had two more grand pianos: a Chickering on which he had played as a child and a Steinway B model.


In the last years CD 318 has been restored and is now on display at the National Library of Canada in Ottawa. In 2012 Lang Lang played on it (in the 2nd video) - in the first video is Gould playing extracts on it from the Well Tempered Clavier.