What does CD 318 stand for?

Glenn Gould playing CD 318 © Photo: Don Hunstein © Sony Music Entertainment

Earlier this month, we blogged about how excited the NAC was about our newest archival acquisition, Glenn Gould’s infamous Steinway piano CD 318.  Right now, the NAC is in the process of putting the final touches on a permanent exhibit that will showcase the acquisition on the NAC’s Mezzanine level, and we’re all pretty excited about it.

When I first began working on the project, I was somewhat fascinated by its title.  What does “CD 318” actually mean?  What is the explanation behind how Steinway names their pianos?

Well, to break it down, let’s start with the letters.   The “C” singles the piano out as an exceptional instrument among the greatest built—one of the best to come out of Steinway’s factory in Astoria, Queens.  “C” pianos were set aside for exclusive use by “Steinway Artists” in cities across North America.   The “D” indicates that the Steinway is a concert grand, Steinway’s largest piano.  The number 318 is actually not a serial number (which I thought) but in fact simply a random number assigned to the piano by the Steinway factory.  The serial number is actually 317194. 

In June of 1960, Glenn Gould came across “old 318” at Eaton Auditorium in Toronto, and his “romance on three legs” began from that point forward.  Did you know that the piano actually travelled with Gould when he performed?  It was shipped to wherever Gould was performing, taken off the trucks and loaded onto the stage, re-tuned, and then loaded back up after the concert.  To many it would seem like an unnecessary hassle, but it speaks volumes about how important CD 318 was to Gould, and how that piano’s specific sound was of such great value to him as an artist.

Did you happen to catch the cover story of the Ottawa Citizen on June 7?  There was an article about how “Voyager 1” (which was launched by NASA in 1977) is reaching the outer edges of our solar system.  Now, how that relates to this CD 318 might be somewhat puzzling to you, until you learn that on board the spacecraft is a golden record, assembled by a NASA, which includes (among other audible treasures like the sound of children singing, of thunder, and of the human kiss) the music of J.S. Bach, recorded in the 1960’s at Eaton Auditorium on CD318 by Glenn Gould.

From an Eaton Store in Toronto, to the finest concert halls in the world, all the way to outer space, the story behind Steinway CD 318 is as fascinating as the artist who lovingly played it.  Come see it for yourself, and get right up close to one of Canada’s most significant cultural artifacts.  The exhibit will be available for the public to enjoy as of June 22.


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