La Scena Musicale

Friday, 3 December 2010

Pianist Stewart Goodyear’s recital action-packed

By L.H. Tiffany Hsieh

In more ways than one, pianist Stewart Goodyear is a knockout: he’s both visually entertaining to watch and acoustically dynamic to hear; his playing is near perfect but hard to be pinned down for what exactly is missing.

That was the case in his solo recital at Koerner Hall Nov. 28, when an all-Beethoven program was on the menu, featuring Piano Sonata No. 17, Op. 31, No. 2, the Tempest; Piano Sonata No. 21, Op. 53, the Waldstein; Piano Sonata No. 14, Op. 27, No. 2, the Moonlight and Piano Sonata No. 23, Op. 57, the Appassionata.

Goodyear is a fine pianist with confidence and exuberance on stage. However, coming away from this particular recital felt a bit like leaving the movie theatre after watching a great action film that offers lots of terrific action but little plot. His Beethoven, albeit solid, lacked certain humanity and came across hard at times. His superlative fingers have a tendency of making everything sound homogenous after a while, despite the contrast in dynamics and colours.

That being said, Goodyear displayed a total control at the keyboard starting with the arpeggio opening of the Tempest, followed by those infamous descending two-note slurs piano students practise a whole calendar year to master.

His flawless technique can be described as being military precise, alarmingly swift and crisp like a double-edge razor. This exact skill set dominated the entire program, particularly in the outer, faster movements of the sonatas in which Goodyear produced much excitement and evoked many listeners to head-bob like pigeons in the audience. One man looked like he was being electrocuted on cue from his seat during the pianist’s lightning interpretation of the Moonlight’s presto agitato, and just about everybody jumped up to their feet when Goodyear finished the Appasionata in a do-or-die manner in the fast-as-you-can coda by smacking his feet and ejecting the bench away from the piano as he stroke the final chord with such force that he nearly fell off sideways, but didn’t.

Goodyear also showed off a gentler side of his playing in the slower, less turbulent movements. The adagio from the Tempest saw some of the most sensitive playing from him in the concert while the popular first movement of the Moonlight reflected an ominous sense that all hell will break loose. Goodyear followed this with a sweet and delicate ray of sunshine in the Moonlight’s allegretto, and later in the Waldstein’s rondo, which conveyed a clear texture of an angelic and playful flair layered with long sustaining trills and explosive passageworks.

The recital was dramatic, to say the least, and sometimes that’s what makes a performance breathtaking.

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