The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music Q&A: Pianist Stewart Goodyear talks about the emotional appeal of Beethoven and the eclectic style of his own Piano Concerto, both of which he will perform tonight with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. On Saturday night, you can hear Bach’s “St. John Passion” performed by the UW Concert Choir and UW Chamber Orchestra under Beverly Taylor.

April 11, 2014
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ALERT: On Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, Beverly Taylor will conduct the University of Wisconsin-Madison Concert Choir (below) and the UW Chamber Orchestra with guest soloists in Johann Sebastian Bach’s “St. John Passion.” (Tickets are $15 for the public and $8 for senior citizens and students.)

Concert Choir

By Jacob Stockinger

It is daunting for any pianist to play all 32 of the piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven, usually over several days or weeks.

But then Stewart Goodyear (below) is not just any pianist.

He performs all the Beethoven sonatas in a single day, much like a marathon.

Stewart Goodyear2

Moreover, Goodyear, who hails from Toronto, Canada, is also a composer who has written his own Piano Concerto.

Tonight at 8 p.m. in the Capitol Theater of the Overture Center, Stewart Goodyear will perform both Beethoven and his own work.

With the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under music director and conductor Andrew Sewell, Goodyear will perform Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy” and his own Piano Concerto.

For the Beethoven, the choral part will be sung by the WCO Choir that is made up of the University of Wisconsin Madrigal Singers and the Festival Choir of Madison (below). The choir will also perform Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s sublime “Ave Verum Corpus,” which should complement some of the tone of  Goodyeas’s piano concerto.

festivalchoir

The closing the program will be Beethoven’s famed Symphony No. 3, the “Eroica,” which radically changed the course of the modern symphony.

Tickets are $15 to $67. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141. For more information, you can also visit:

http://wcoconcerts.org/performances/masterworks/72/event-info/

www.stewartgoodyear.com

Goodyear (below) agreed to an email Q&A that for various reasons got delayed. But good sport that he is, he answered the questions after a strenuous rehearsal. Clearly this is a intense artist who approaches both music and writing in an articulate and athletic way.

Stewart Goodyear informal

You have performed — in marathon one-day sessions — and recorded all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, and I believe you play all the concertos. What is it about Beethoven’s works that attracts you so deeply, and what is your view of how to best play him?

I was three years old when I first heard the music of Beethoven. It was that moment when I knew I wanted to be a musician. Beethoven’s music spoke to me as a child more profoundly than any other artist.

Even now, I feel that Beethoven expresses the complete human experience: the passion, the rage, the humor, the vulnerability, the courtship, the love, the defiance, and, finally, the spiritual awakening. I lived with Beethoven’s music my whole life, but I only felt ready to perform his music when I finally experienced every aspect of the human experience. It was at that point where I had a profound thirst to perform Beethoven’s music.

I was 32 when I first performed the complete 32 sonatas, and I knew that my first solo recording had to be those masterpieces. The sonatas, to me, are a very intimate diary communicated with the listener.

I think the best way to play Beethoven (below) is from a very personal place in one’s heart. Like a great actor, one has to live every moment, feel every emotion deeply, and play every note like it was a last opportunity. The audience must be seized at every second. Rage must be raging; pain must be painful. Raw emotion cannot be tamed.

Beethoven big

How do you place the Choral Fantasy among his works –- just a sketch for the Ninth Symphony or a work in its own right?

The “Choral Fantasy” is quite an interesting piece. The last time I performed this piece was with Yannick Nezet-Seguin and Orchestra Metropolitan, on a program that re-enacted the historic 1808 concert that saw the premiere of the Fifth Symphony and Sixth (“Pastoral”) Symphony, the Piano Concerto No. 4, and the “Choral Fantasy,” among other works.

I see this work as the perfect finale for this program, first showcasing Beethoven’s improvising skills, then showcasing different members of the orchestra, and after variations of the hymn, showcasing the vocalists and chorus who participated in the mammoth 1808 program.

This piece was written specifically for that concert as a showstopper, but I firmly believe that this powerful, moving work is a masterpiece in its own right.

Stewart Goodyear at piano keyboard

How and when did your own Piano Concerto come about? How would you describe it to the general public? Is it tonal and accessible, or melodic and appealingly harmonic? Rhythm-wise, does it have unusual aspects? How many tines have you performed it, and how has it been received before by the general public?

My piano concerto was commissioned by the Peninsula Music Festival (below) in Wisconsin’s Door County and premiered there in 2010. The architecture of this work is very much inspired by the Mozartian concerto, but it is also inspired by my own ethnic musical background: Classical, calypso and English folk music. (Goodyear talks about his own concerto in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

The piano writing is lyrical but intensely rhythmic, and the harmonies are tonal and accessible with spicy dissonances.

I was delighted by the warm response of my concerto at the world premiere, and I hope the audience in Madison enjoys it. This will be my second performance of the concerto., but the world premiere of a revised version of it I did specifically for chamber orchestra.

Peninsula Music Festival Door Community Auditorium

Is there anything you would like to say about performing for a third time with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below top) and conductor Andrew Sewell (below bottom) before a Madison audience?

It is always a great pleasure to work with Andrew Sewell and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. I look very much forward to tonight’s concert.

WCO lobby

andrewsewell

 

 

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