Bazzana, Kevin 1963–
Bazzana, Kevin 1963–
Born July 27, 1963, in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. Education: Attended University of Calgary and Okanagan College; University of Victoria, B.Mus., 1988; Stanford University, M.A., 1989; University of California at Berkeley, Ph.D., 1996.
Musicologist, writer, editor, and lecturer. Beethoven Journal, editorial assistant, 1990-92, 1999, 2007; University of Victoria, lecturer, 1993—; Glenn Gould (magazine), editor, 1995—; Toronto Symphony Orchestra, program annotator, 1996—.
Canada Council creative writing grants, 1998, 2003; Toronto Book Award for Nonfiction, 2004, and Nicolas Slonimsky Award for musical biography, 2005, both for Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould; Charles Taylor Prize for literary nonfiction nomination, 2008, for Lost Genius: The Curious and Tragic Story of an Extraordinary Musical Prodigy.
Glenn Gould: The Performer in the Work—A Study in Performance Practice, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1997.
Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Canada), 2003.
Lost Genius: The Curious and Tragic Story of an Extraordinary Musical Prodigy, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2007.
Books have been translated into Japanese, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and French.
Kevin Bazzana is considered one of the foremost experts on the life and works of reclusive Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. The editor of Glenn Gould magazine, Bazzana has written two critically acclaimed works on the musician: Glenn Gould: The Performer in the Work—A Study in Performance Practice, published in 1997 and based on his Ph.D. dissertation, and Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould, published in 2003.
With Glenn Gould, Bazzana presents a detailed musicological study of Gould's performances and places Gould's career into a broader historical context. Bazzana not only examines the aesthetic philosophy that informed Gould's approach to music performance but also details specific features of his piano technique, drawing on the Glenn Gould archive at the Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. Booklist's Alan Hirsch commended this aspect of the book, noting that the author "artfully describes each of Gould's techniques and how he used it to achieve his unique performance style." Timothy J. McGee, writing in Library Journal, called Bazzana's book a "detailed critical study" of the pianist and not simply "another biographical tribute." Tim Page, writing in the Washington Post Book World, deemed it a "fine" volume that explores, "with rare acuity, Gould's artistic philosophies and the manner in which they were put into practice." Page went on to observe that Bazzana "examines Gould's contradictions with a judicious mixture of sympathy and rigor."
Bazzana continues his investigations of Gould in the biography Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould, the "most balanced" of the many biographies on the pianist, according to a critic for the New Yorker. Ivan Hewett, writing in New Statesman, called Bazzana's approach a "rounded portrait" by a person "eminently qualified to write [Gould's] biography." Bazzana deals with Gould's eccentricities and lays to rest some of the gossip about the pianist's sexuality. The New Yorker contributor called Bazzana a "keen deflator of myths" for this aspect of the book. Employing comprehensive interviews with friends and colleagues, as well as research in the archives, Bazzana "wisely and skillfully" follows a middle path in his biography, as Paul Griffiths wrote in Nation, by avoiding a caricature image of Gould as either "an inhibited homosexual or a hermetic straight man, a wonder or a clown, a tragedy or a triumph." For Guardian Unlimited contributor Edward Greenfield, "Bazzana's narrative and character study over a vast span reflects the allure of Gould himself." Greenfield went on to note that, "very well documented, [Wondrous Strange] makes a compelling study even for the non-devotee." Likewise, a Publishers Weekly reviewer found Bazzana's work an "engaging biography that will captivate classical music lovers and casual listeners alike." More praise came from Library Journal's Larry Lipkis, who commented that the "author's tone is sympathetic but by no means uncritical, and his prose is lively, witty, and often quite elegant." Lipkis concluded that this volume "will replace earlier biographies" of Gould.
In Lost Genius: The Curious and Tragic Story of an Extraordinary Musical Prodigy, Bazzana turns his attention to a letter-known musician: pianist Ervin Nyiregyházi, born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1903, who was acknowledged worldwide as a musical genius by the time he was thirteen. His character flaws, however, brought his career to an abrupt end when he was only in his twenties. "Infantile in personality," Booklist reviewer Alan Hirsch declared, "he depended on others to promote his career and manage his life." In his later years, stated a Publishers Weekly contributor, he "wrestled with crippling stage fright" and "exhausted others with his neediness, paranoia and grandiose posturing; and sabotaged a potentially brilliant career in the name of artistic purity." "He was a brilliant, highly original musician and eccentric character who led a bizarre life, though his story is almost unknown today," Bazzana told an interviewer for January magazine. "He was one of those gifted artists who was cursed psychologically in ways that sabotaged his career; his story is a tragedy about a great talent that cannot find its place in the world, and he left to posterity only tantalizing glimpses of his art in its prime."
Nyiregyházi's career was launched by his parents, who, Bazzana's biography reveals, exploited their child for their own gain. He toured Europe in the early days of the twentieth century, astonishing the social elite with his musical talent and his passionate performance style. "Virtually all his life," declared a Kirkus Reviews contributor, "the pianist could read a score, then play it flawlessly; he taught himself English in a week; he could play from memory a piece he'd not rehearsed for decades." "Like Liszt and certain other Romantics," wrote critic Barbara Jepson in the Wall Street Journal, "Nyiregyházi took considerable liberties with the score, changing notes, doubling octaves or indulging in sudden tempo fluctuations. At his peak, his technique was described as ‘uncannily gigantic’; his thunderous fortissimos reportedly left traces of blood on the keys." The young pianist came to the United States in 1920, but the exploitation by his parents (and by a succession of business managers) had taken its toll, and his career quickly crumbled. He relocated to Los Angeles in 1928, where he lived until his death in 1987. He lived mostly in squalor, marrying ten times and working only occasionally for the motion picture industry as a hand double in movies. "Was he a failure?" asked New York Times Book Review contributor Michael Kimmelman. "He was praised to the skies by Puccini and Schoenberg. There are worse legacies. ‘I always preferred music as a way of life, not as a profession,’ Nyiregyházi once said. That may be his greatest lesson to posterity, the best response he had to the limits of his talent and what the fates dealt him, and an endearing credo, which mitigates somewhat his pathos. ‘He was the classic Wildean hero,’ Bazzana writes, ‘lying in the gutter but looking at the stars.’" Lost Genius, concluded a reviewer for the New Yorker, "is a balanced portrait that also often reads like a parable about the artistic temperament."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Record Guide, January 1, 2008, Vroon, review of Lost Genius: The Curious and Tragic Story of an Extraordinary Musical Prodigy.
Atlantic Monthly, March 1, 2008, review of Lost Genius, p. 104.
Biography, March 22, 2007, Anton Kuerti, review of Lost Genius, p. 286.
Booklist, December 1, 1997, Alan Hirsch, review of Glenn Gould: The Performer in the Work—A Study in Performance Practice, p. 604; April 15, 2004, Alan Hirsch, review of Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould, p. 1415; August 1, 2007, Alan Hirsch, review of Lost Genius, p. 21.
Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, July-August, 2004, John Mitzel, review of Wondrous Strange, p. 40.
January, February 27, 2008, "Author Snapshot: Kevin Bazzana."
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2007, review of Lost Genius.
Library Journal, December, 1997, Timothy J. McGee, review of Glenn Gould, p. 107; June 1, 2004, Larry Lipkis, review of Wondrous Strange, p. 136; August 1, 2007, Barry Zaslow, review of Lost Genius, p. 89.
Nation, June 14, 2004, Paul Griffiths, review of Wondrous Strange, p. 15.
New Statesman, October 11, 2004, Ivan Hewett, review of Wondrous Strange, p. 53.
New Yorker, June 14, 2004, review of Wondrous Strange, p. 192; October 29, 2007, "Lost Genius," p. 93.
New York Times Book Review, October 28, 2007, "Broken Idol," p. 18.
Publishers Weekly, April 19, 2004, review of Wondrous Strange, p. 53; May 28, 2007, review of Lost Genius, p. 46.
Wall Street Journal, October 24, 2007, Barbara Jepson, "The Perils of Being a Child Prodigy."
Washington Post Book World, March 22, 1998, Tim Page, review of Glenn Gould, p. 8.
City of Toronto Web site,http://www.city.toronto.ca/ (June 10, 2008), "Toronto Book Awards, 2004."
Guardian Unlimited,http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (June 10, 2008), Edward Greenfield, review of Wondrous Strange.
Straight.com,http://www.straight.com/ (June 10, 2008), Alexander Varty, review of Lost Genius.