RECORD KEEPING | Stewart Goodyear Offers Pristine Technique And Sensitive Interpretation Of Beethoven Concertos

By Anya Wassenberg on September 17, 2020

Stewart Goodyear (Photo: Anita Zvonar)
Stewart Goodyear (Photo: Anita Zvonar)

Beethoven: The Complete Piano Concertos (Orchid Classics)

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Stewart Goodyear has always worn his heart on his sleeve when it comes to Beethoven, and his love of the material emerges as a technically polished and musically graceful interpretation of all five piano concertos on Beethoven: The Complete Piano Concertos, an Orchid Classics release.

The BBC National Orchestra of Wales provides able support and orchestral colours to contrast the purity of Goodyear’s playing. Throughout, the recording is characterized by a lucidity of technique and lovely tone.

Stewart displays a consistency in approach over the five works. Beethoven wrote the concertos between 1795 and 1809. In delving into the music, Stewart captures the spirit of each, from the buoyant and youthful energy of the Allegro con brio of No. 1 through to No. 5 the ‘Emperor’ and its virtuosic demands. There’s a natural and unfettered flow to the music, with speed that is impressive and technique pristine, but where virtuosity is always incidental to expression.

Stewart Goodyear Beethoven Concertos

There is a nicely delicate lyricism in his interpretation of the Adagio of No. 2, with a sensitive connection to conductor Andrew Constantine and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. That turns to drama that in the Allegro con brio of No. 3, where Stewart explores tensions with the orchestra with interesting results. In the fourth movement, the Rondo vivace, Stewart and the orchestra capture one of Beethoven’s more playful moments with rhythmic intensity.

In No. 5, the Emperor, Goodyear is at his most impressive, mining the pure musicality of the difficult piece without idiosyncratic touches — entirely subsumed in the music. The second movement is unhurried, and there is a sense of harnessed power through to its impassioned ending.

Goodyear’s interpretation of the Beethoven piano sonatas, which he famously played on a single day for four concerts in Canada and the US and later recorded on the Marquis label, was celebrated by critics and music lovers alike. This recording was produced over a 10-day period in 2018, and comes in the form of three disks.

For some artists, this may have been an ego project; for Goodyear, it’s clearly more a matter of reverence for the music.

Verdict: Recommended, even if you already own another collection of the Beethoven concertos.

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