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Rachmaninoff loved speedboats and cherry-malted milkshakes. Sarasate collected canes. Sometimes the affinities and pastimes of great musicians make for nothing more than an entertaining anecdote. But some hobbies turn out to be not hobbies at all but something deeper, an alternate life unlived. Take for instance the curious, sometimes poignant, and ultimately revealing case of two towering 20th-century piano luminaries who both dreamed of becoming composers. I’m speaking, naturally, of Artur Schnabel and Glenn Gould.
Yes, that Schnabel, and that Gould. Both men harbored fantasies of becoming not just pianist-composers in the older 19th-century mold, peddling their confections from the keyboard, but first-order creators of symphonies, operas, and more. The works they did create are as obscure today as their pianism is celebrated.