A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould’s Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano

By Katie Hafner, Read by William Coon Length:  7 hours, 45 min[Unabridged]


Available soon for download at:  Amazon and Audible

AROTL CoverGlenn 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.”

About Katie Hafner

Katie Hafner is a correspondent for The New York Times, and also a dedicated amateur pianist. Before joining the Times in 1998 she worked at Newsweek and Business Week. She is the author of four books, three of which concern technology and the Internet: Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier (with John Markoff) ; Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet (with Matthew Lyon); The Well: A Story of Love, Death and Real Life in the Seminal Online Community; and The House at the Bridge: A Story of Modern Germany. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Praise for A Romance on Three Legs

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 Hafner’s. — Booklist

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

With A Romance on Three Legs, Katie Hafner makes an important–and unique–contribution to the literature of one of the twentieth century’s most fascinating musicians and the instrument he played. To the reader unfamiliar with Gould, the book serves as a concise (and intriguing) introduction, but even informed students of his work will find new food for thought here. Hafner’s impressive detective work has clarified some old mysteries and turned up many fresh details, even some genuinely newsworthy scoops–including the first on-the-record interview with the only woman ever to sustain a quasi-domestic relationship with Gould. — Kevin Bazzana, author of Glenn Gould: The Performer in the Work (1997) and Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould (2003), and editor, since 1995, of the journal of the Glenn Gould Foundation.