Stewart Goodyear. For Glenn Gould. Sono Luminus DSL-92220. Total time: 66 minutes.
Toronto’s Stewart Goodyear was a piano prodigy. He has been composing his own music since childhood. There’s an element of the showman about him, on the surface. But deep down, he is a sensible, serious pianist who is his latest album has created a wonderful tribute to the legendary Glenn Gould.
Goodyear has reconstituted a couple of Gould’s youthful recital programs and, instead of interpreting the music in the style of Gould, provides his own clear-headed renderings that make as much sense as the original, yet sound only like Goodyear.
The result is a pleasure from beginning to end. I would like to boldly suggest that Goodyear does a better job will all of the music as a whole than Gould was ever capable of doing.
The album, arranged chronologically, begins with Lord Salisbury’s Pavan and Galliard by late-Renaissance composer Orlando Gibbons, then segues smoothly into a Fantasia in D Major by Jan Sweelinck. We hear five of the short, simple Sinfonias by J.S. Bach, interpreted with the care and craft of much more complex pieces of music, followed by the full Partita No. 5 for solo keyboard, with its whimsical, theatrical “Preambulum.”
As was typical of Gould’s avoidance of 18th century and early 19th-century music, we jump to the late-Romantic intimacies of Johannes Brahms Intermezzi. Goodyear has chosen two: Op. 118, No. 2 and Op. 117, No. 3.
Gould probably did as much for the early 20th-century music of atonal pioneer Alban Berg as he did for Bach. Goodyear gives us a powerfully compelling performance of Berg’s single-movement Piano Sonata No. 1. As he plays Berg’s remarkably traditional counterpoints, Goodyear imbues the music with shape as well as drama. Time is being kind to this piece, and it makes for engaging listening at Goodyear’s hands.
The pianist is much gentler with Brahms. Like Gould, Goodyear clearly lays out Brahms’ careful interweaving of musical themes. But unlike Gould, he gives the two pieces a gentle, caring touch.
The Bach pieces don’t sound a bit like Gould either. Parts of the Partita are very briskly paced, to make this listener gape in awe at Goodyear’s technical skills. But the approach is clear-headed, balancing the voices perfectly so that the listener can make the decision about which voice to focus on.
Most of the pieces on this album are not part of the mainstream classical repertoire, but Goodyear — as did Gould back in his day — makes a convincing case that each one should be. Best of all, the album as a whole, works like a fine recital carrying the listener forward effortlessly, willingly to a faraway destination as surprising at it is pleasurable.
I also love how this sort of carefully structured album is also better than any personal playlist we could assemble from our own music files, or get from a streaming service.
Read our latest interview with Goodyear on his Gould inspired album right here.
LUDWIG VAN TORONTO
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