Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

With Love from Stewart Goodyear

Stewart Goodyear: piano works by Gibbons, Sweelinck, Bach, Brahms, Berg

On January 11, 1955 Glenn Gould made his New York debut (what he called his "Debutown") at Town Hall, and on the following day he signed a recording contract with Columbia Records. His 27 years in the recording studio before his untimely death in 1982 made him a legend around the world, but here in Canada he is especially admired and loved. One of those hero-worshippers is Stewart Goodyear, born and raised in Toronto, and an alumnus, like Gould, of the Royal Conservatory of Music. Goodyear has recently been playing in concert many of the works from Gould's audacious programme in New York, and in his American debut earlier that year in Washington DC.

Glenn Gould's debut concert at Town Hall, January 11, 1955. Library & Archives Canada
Now we have this new Sono Luminus disc with many of those pieces: music by Gibbons, Bach (Sinfonias from the 3-Part Inventions and the 5th Partita) and Berg (his Piano Sonata op.1). He's also included two Brahms Intermezzi and to close, the ultimate Gould tribute, the Aria from The Goldberg Variations. I love Gould's Brahms; those who think of him as a capricious and detached artist should listen to his 1961 recording of 10 Intermezzi, which he referred to as "the sexiest interpretation of Brahms’s Intermezzi you’ve ever heard". He also said it was "perhaps the best piano playing I have done." Goodyear's own Intermezzo in A major, op. 118 no. 2 is as rapturous and full-blooded as Gould's, full of a deep understanding of Brahms and a fitting tribute to Gould in the bargain.

It was surprising to notice how slow some of Glenn Gould's tempi were in his recordings of the early English masters. His 1971 recording of Orlando Gibbons' "Lord of Salisbury" Pavan and Galliard runs about the same length as Goodyear's in spite of the fact that the latter includes repeats that Gould doesn't. Goodyear's zippier version makes more musical sense, I think. Though I do love Gould's whole album A Consort of Musicke bye William Byrde and Orlando Gibbons, it's a bit out in left field even by the standards of its day, much less when looked at through any modern historically informed practice lens. 

Thank goodness we're finally beyond looking at Glenn Gould as the mere sum of his eccentricities. We have a much better idea of the whole person: his emotional responses to people as well as pianos, and the full measure of his mastery in so many dimensions of great artists like Bach and Brahms. It's this response to the complete artist that makes Goodyear's tribute so important; it's based on a study of the deep roots of Gould's art, and not the externalities. As well, it's obviously heartfelt. The best expression of this love is the last piece on the disc, the Aria from the Goldberg Variations. Goodyear's moving performance takes the middle ground between the bright, almost coltish first version Gould made at the beginning of his recording journey, and the solemn, heart-breaking one he made close to the end. What a marvellous way to celebrate our Glenn!

This disc will be released on March 23, 2018.

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