Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Stewart Goodyear at Symphony Center: A new 'Tiger' emerges

by Dwight Casimere

So, Tiger is gone from the national scene. I turn your attention now to his near look-alike, Stewart Goodyear, the "Canadian Cannonball' who blew into Symphony Center just as a cold front from our shared northern border dropped the outside temperature below freezing.

Goodyear is a musical 'Masters' winner in anybody's book, if there were to ever be such an event. His recent performance at Symphony Center was as athletic as anything seen on a golf or basketball court, but with a grace and intellectualism that no brute athletic contest could achieve. At the conclusion of his outstanding recitative, one patron in the front row could be seen simply holding his hand over his heart in the midst of the thunderous applause. Goodyear acknowledged the gesture with a respectful bow in his direction.

Goodyear can well afford to be humble. He is clearly the best at what he does, and, over the course of the years, thanks to the excellent programming of the CSO staff, I've seen all of the greats!

Goodyear chose to play the same Hamburg Steinway as did Vladimir Feltsman in his sterling performance of November 8.

Beginning with the enigmatic Alexander Scriabin's Piano Sonata No.1, Goodyear was at once explosive and serene. He then launched into Samuel Barber's Piano Sonata in E-flat Minor, a kaleidoscopic work originally written for the great Vladimir Horowitz as a special commission for the 25th anniversary of the League of Nations. Maybe they should have flown Goodyear to Oslo to play for Obama when he received the Nobel Peace Prize!

His fingers danced across the keyboard at dizzying speed. At times, caressing the notes in the composer’s whimsical melodies then, with wrists arched, launching a full frontal attack that brought passages to their thundering conclusion.

His cross-hand work in the post-intermission Beethoven Piano Sonata No.29 in B-flat Major was a marvel to behold. He captured the sensitivity of the composer’s inner being and brought forth hidden meanings and inner voices. After displaying his total command of Beethoven’s unique musical language, he finished the sonata with a commanding flourish.

The best, and the most heartfelt renditions were saved for last. Encores began with Chopin's Polonaise No. 6 in A-flat Major, Op.53 ‘Heroique,’ the bane of every piano student, played here with ease and authority. Passages that befuddled even the most accomplished player were, in Goodyear's hands, the height of artistic expression. Chopin wore his pride and love for his ancestral homeland, Poland, on his sleeve and Goodyear afforded it all the dignity it deserved. I had forgotten how introspective and melodic some of the middle passages were. Goodyear gently reminded me. An Earl Wild transcription of Gershwin's "Embraceable You" brought the focus into the realm of the present and showed what a fine interpreter of the more popular genre Goodyear can be. To conclude, a special treat, a window into the great performer's own soul as a composer, a Debussy-inspired, Impressionistic composition called "August." As a final encore, Goodyear had a bit of fun with Strauss/Schulz-Evler’s Concert Arabesque on Motifs of “By the Beautiful Blue Danube” that showed both his sense of humor and a touch of Liberace-like showmanship, but not too much. After all, that patron in the front row was still motioning to Goodyear with his hand over his heart, and the performer was all too willing to oblige!

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