TORONTO CONCERT REVIEWS

Music reviews of the finest concerts in Toronto:
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Pianist Stewart Goodyear

​​Review by David Richards

Toronto ON August 14th 2018

Perhaps it was the set on the stage of the Thousand Islands Playhouse that gave last night’s concert a house-concert feel. The stage was decorated as a Canadian small-town waterfront resort complete with a moose’s head adorning a wall with hockey sticks, snow shoes and saws adding to the rustic effect. Glenn Gould would have felt right at home, as did last night’s artist Stewart Goodyear.


The concert, the third of four Studio S Concerts and Conversation with Eric Friesen, was made up of music from Goodyear’s latest recording entitled For Glenn Gould released in March of this year. The album and the concert featured selections from Gould’s debut recitals in Montreal in 1952 as well as New York and Washington in 1955, recitals that set him off on his journey to stardom. 

Pianist Stewart Goodyear

The program was by any standard measure unusual to be sure. It began with the English tudor composer Orlando Gibbons’ Lord Salisbury’s Pavan and Galliard for Keyboard, M 18/19. Only Gould would have chosen such a work to open a debut performance. Nevertheless, it worked for Gould and last night it worked for Goodyear. The crystal-clear ornamentation, imitation, and rapid-fire scales set the tone for an evening of both dazzling technique and the delicate touch of a true artist.

Naturally, there couldn’t be a tribute to Gould without Bach’s music. Partita No. 5 in G major, BWV 829 had a light buoyant spirit. I was particularly taken with Goodyear’s left hand. There was none of the heaviness that one often hears in contrapuntal passages. He let each phrase sing out with clarity.

Goodyear went in chronological order from Gibbons to Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Berg. However, following Beethoven’s Sonata No. 28 in A major, Op. 101, at the very moment when there was to be an intermission, he decided spontaneously to dispense with the washroom break and instead, added Chopin’s Nocturne in D Flat major Op. 27, No.2. It was perhaps the only time anywhere that an encore has been inserted into the middle of a concert program. Who could complain when it is performed with such consummate artistry? Glenn Gould would have had none of it, but the audience loved the addition.

Following the encore, Goodyear got back to the printed program, sort of, playing two Intermezzi by Brahms (Op. 117, No. 3 and Op. 118, No. 2) in the reverse order to what was printed. Nevertheless, they each drew the audience ever closer to him with uplifting musical lines woven into the fabric of the harmonies.

What for me was the main event, Anton Berg’s Piano Sonata, Op. 1 was a stunning performance. The music was as stirring emotionally as it was intellectually stimulating. Berg, who wrote the work while studying with Arnold Schonberg in 1907-8, was moving away from tonal harmony and developing a new twelve-tone musical syntax. The tension in the music built and receded just as felt right. As Gould said, “It left the impression of great peaks and lesser crests, calibrated as carefully and achieved as inevitably as in music of a more orthodox nature.”

Goodyear, ended his tribute by performing an abbreviated version of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, BWV 988. The final aria following some dazzling variations, was riveting in its simplicity and tuneful elegance. Gould had ended his New York Debut with the same Aria. It was fitting that Goodyear would do the same.

Goodyear has been on a whirlwind of performances in the past month, travelling to Montreal, Philadelphia, London (England), Minnesota, and Parry Sound before last night’s performance. It doesn’t get any easier for him with several concertos to perform this fall. Personally, I will be looking forward to the première of his own new piano concerto with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on January 16th with Tania Miller conducting.

The final concert in the Studio ‘S’ Concert Series will feature the super-star Canadian pianist, Jan Lisiecki on Sunday, August 26th at 7:30 pm at the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque.


Stewart Goodyear: a homage to Glenn Gould, with a twist of Chopin!