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Volume 16 Issue 3 - November 2010

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Stewart Goodyear, Off

Stewart Goodyear, Off the CuffPAMELA MARGLESIpianist Stewart Goodyear so interesting, take a look at twovideo clips posted online. In one, Goodyear performs a pianotranscription of The Blue Danube Waltz. In this virtuosic repertoirehe reveals the exceptional grace, elegance, and lyricismfor which he is well-known. In the other, Goodyear plays the“Hammerklavier” Sonata. You cansee a facet of Goodyear’s playing which has emerged in full forcesince he started performing and recording all 32 of Beethoven’sby dramatic phrasing, imaginative colours, and daring tempos.Goodyear will be playing four Beethoven sonatas when he comesber28. Born in Toronto in 1978, he graduated from the Glenn GouldJames Anagnoson, now dean of the school. Goodyear then went onat the Juilliard School in New York. Established as a composer aswell as pianist, he still lives in New York.But Toronto remains a second home – fortunately, since that allowedme to catch up with him in late September, when he came intoThe WholeNoteDoes your ongoing Beethoven projectrepresent a more serious directionfor you? I have always been seriousabout Beethoven. But what is ironicabout this project is the numberof people asking me, “Why are youdoing this?” I guess they think thatI am just doing Beethoven to prove Iam serious.Why hadn’t you make any recordingssince you were 14, until nowwhen you’ve released a new disc ofBeethoven sonatas? After I graduatedfrom Juilliard there was absolutelyno time for recording. I wasdoing a lot of performing, becauseI had a manager who was overworkingme. I found out later thathe was trying to run me out of thebusiness by burning me out.That is bizarre – why did he do that? I don’t know why. But when Ikept getting great reviews from all these concerts he was schedulinghe said to me, “Stewart, what is it with you – the more we abuseyou, the better you play.” And he sounded worried. I’m happy to sayBut he actually did me a service, because that experience gaveto give up. I gained more technique and knowledge of music, andmore life experience. I also developed the ability to learn big piecesvery quickly. I had to learn around 11 new concerti per season. Iwill never do that again. But pieces like the Hummel Concerto inA minor gave me even more knowledge of Beethoven, who was hiscontemporary. I wanted to read everything I could about Hummel inorder to do that piece justice. So I found out about him as a pianistMendelssohn.Even though it’s been 18 years since you recorded Leroy Anderson andGershwin with Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops, your reputationmight still be partly based on that repertoire. But I was treating LeroyAnderson just as seriously as I would any other composer! WhenI recently played Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in Ottawa the personintroducing the concert said, “You will hear Stewart Goodyear’s jazzskills when he interprets Rhapsody in Blue.” That was one of the fewtimes I had to speak to an audience. I said “Listen, I am not a jazzpianist. I wish I were – it demands such a level of sophistication. Iabsolutely love listening to jazz, but it’s a totally different world ofcreativity.” I explained that I’m a classical pianist. And Rhapsody inBlue is a classical score, not a jazz composition.The difference? Everything that Iperform is written down. I followthe tempo markings and the dynamicsas faithfully in Gershwin as I doin Beethoven.What about when you improvisecadenzas in Mozart’s concertos? ForMozart’s cadenzas, I do improviseon the spot.Do you prepare anything beforehand?No, I’m just inspired by the moment– by Mozart’s score, how conductorsportray Mozart’s tutti before Icome in, how they set up the mood,and how the audience responds. Soit’s always fresh. The whole atmospheregoverns what I’m going to bedoing. I suppose in a way I do prepare,because improvisation is always part of my practising routine.But as to the actual notes that come out during the cadenza, I neverknow what I’m going to do until I reach that moment.What about the Mozart concertos which do have cadenzas composedby him - do you still improvise your own? That was a tough decisionto make. I decided to do my own, simply because when Mozart doeswrite out a cadenza, it’s really just a skeleton of what he would playon stage. It’s like a guide. I’m sure he took plenty of liberties, but wewill never know. We do have some ideas from the piano sonatas andthe fantasies – they become very virtuosic.Do you think there are different ways to interpret a composer’s musicthat can work equally well? I don’t know how anyone can have theidea that a piece could only be played one certain way. To me thatinsults the creativity of the composer – and classical music. Whatgot me into classical music is the fact that there are so many ways offeeling, so many ways of responding to one piece. When there aremaybe 2,500 people in an auditorium listening to a symphony or aconcerto, I’m sure they’re not all thinking the same things. They’reall individuals. They are not each saying, “This is the only way tolisten,” so why should there be this idea that there is only one way tointerpret?In the programme notes that you wrote for your Beethoven disc, youuse provocative words like “sinister,” “merciless,” and “screamingsobs.” Something that governed my interpretation of Beethoven wassuch an emotional force that audiences were not just moved, but ter--PHOTO JENNIFER ROBERTS8 thewholenote.comNovember 1 - December 7, 2010

violence. There’s a reason why people absolutely adore thunder-cathartic as well. I think Beethoven captures all that.Maybe that’s why you’ve been accused of pounding in your Beethoven.There are some people who think that I pound. I don’t think Ipound, but I don’t shy away from startling audiences. But there aremany ways of playing loud - a chordal texture, a percussive attack,forceful rhythms, a wave of sound from an arpeggio - just as thereare many ways of playing soft or mezzo-forte. All these differentcolours can come out, and I’m not afraid to use all of them. This canscare people.Sometimes when I hear an interpretation of Beethoven, I think,my goodness, why aren’t you using all the facilities you have available?This is a moment where people should be jumping out of theirseats. This is not pleasant, this is frightening – show it! But I’mtouches me on many levels, or when a performer gives me goosebumpsand makes me grasp the seat and think to myself, “I went toa good concert.” That’s one thing I’m always conscious of when I’mperforming.So you are not afraid of making an ugly sound? Don’t get me wrong –an ugly sound is not something I’m striving for. At the same time,I’m not striving for people to say, “Well, isn’t that nice.” What onEarth is that to me? There’s a scene in the movie Ben Hur wherewatching that, would you leave the theatre saying, “Wasn’t thatnice?” That is not the reason that scene is there.If you go on a blind date, you hope that the person you’re havinga drink with inspires an emotional chemistry, so that you want tosee that person again. Beethoven does that – with every single sonatayou want to hear everything again and again. Every sonata is different,and I think that was a conscious decision, because he knew thatpeople were wondering what he was going to do next. That’s one ofmany, many reasons why he is so great.What else are you performing these days? I’m playing Messiaen.Recently in Detroit I did the Turangalîla Symphony and at theLanaudière Festival I performed the Oiseaux exotiques. Messiaen isone of those composers where you are just transmitted, transported,“trans-everythinged.” He brings you into a world that is so glorious– it’s spiritual, it’s religious, it’s sensuous. Messiaen is one ofthe most feared composers because if you want to box Messiaen in,good luck. It’s not going to happen. Like Beethoven, he exploredall facets of humanity. He went about it differently, of course, but Ithink he’s one of the greats.Perhaps he’s feared also because his scores are so daunting to play.The Oiseaux exotiques was one piece where I was working veryhard. Not only on the piano, but researching in libraries. I want-it actually sounded like, in order to do that piece justice. I thought,“Without that knowledge, why am I doing this piece?”Apart from your own compositions, do you play much music by livingcomposers? Not yet, but I love listening to contemporary music.In New York I’m always out attending premieres because I want toknow what people are creating and what the audience response is. Italways feels like you are a part of history. Seeing a piece take shapeand hearing something new is a treat for me.How does that affect your own composing? Everything affects mywriting. Life affects my writing. When I’m travelling and exploringdifferent cultures and meeting people that all inspires the nextcomposition.Did you study composition? I worked with Jennifer Higdon. She reallyNovember 1 - December 7, 2010 9

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