I figured I'd listen to some classical music for a change, as I'm trying to put together a presentation for tomorrow.
Glenn Gould's 1955 recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations came up in my classical playlist. During my breaks, I've watched some of the videos of him as he is a genius and a nut. He had many famous idiosyncrasies -- he would only play sitting on a chair his father made. He sat almost under the keyboard, hunched over in a pose bound to give any piano teacher fits. The piano had to be a certain height off the ground. He liked the room hot during recording. He hummed and swayed along with the music. He made bizarre demands out of fellow performers. There is a famous story about a concerto he played with Bernstein. Bernstein apologized to the audience beforehand because Gould insisted that the first movement be played at half speed.
But his playing was impeccable. Especially when it came to Bach. With some Google-fu, you can find a 47 minute video on Google Videos of him playing the Goldberg Variations, complete with humming, swaying, and ridiculous left hand runs.
Here's something shorter. One of the coolest stories in all of music, if only it were true:
This is the last 2.5 minutes of Contrapunctus XIV, the last fugue from Bach's monumental "Art of Fugue." It was written at the end of his life as his vision was failing. Bach introduces a new theme here -- B flat-A-C-B, or in German musical nomenclature B-A-C-H. That's the four slow notes Gould plays at the beginning of the clip. He then starts to develop a fugue around this theme. A few minutes later, in measure 239, the score abruptly ends. There is a note there from JS Bach's son CPE Bach indicating that at this point, the conductor died.
This story has been widely circulated, including in Hofstadter's book "Gödel, Escher, Bach." Unfortunately, like most things in life, the truth isn't as simple. Bach probably wrote lots of stuff after this, including the ridiculously good Mass in B Minor. It does, however, make an awesome story.