The high voltage modifier applied similarly to Beethoven’s “Appassionata” Sonata as performed by pianist/ guest artist Stewart Goodyear. As for Mozart, the Austrian genius generally brooks no comparison, and his Duo for Violin and Viola in G Major, K.423 was in the best of hands with violinist Timothy Lees and violist Christian Colberg.
The sanctuary of the church was packed for the concert, which brought Goodyear fresh from guest appearances with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Thursday and Saturday at Music Hall.
CSO concertmaster Lees and principal violist Colberg opened with an exhilarating performance of the Mozart Duo. One was struck, not just by their virtuosity, but by their ensemble unity. They seemed literally to breathe together, so closely did their playing mesh. The brisk, sunny opening Allegro was ample evidence that the two are accustomed to working together, as was the Adagio, sweet as honey in Lees hands, complemented by Colberg’s supple, amber tone. The Rondo finale brought a smile to one’s lips, so congenial was their musicianship, with each inflection given just the right emphasis and coloration.
Goodyear stepped up to the Steinway (provided courtesy of Philip E. Seibert) for a performance of Beethoven’s “Appassionata” fully worthy of the title. “Fevered” might characterize the opening Allegro assai (“very allegro”), with its mercurial changes of mood and pounding outbursts. The second movement (Andante con moto), a set of variations on a simple, straightforward theme, was exquisitely shaped, with an ever-so-ominous transition to the freight-train finale, which Goodyear took breathtakingly fast. Blazing would best describe it, and when one did not think he could possibly play any faster, i.e. in the Coda (concluding portion of a work), he did. Sparks seemed to fly from his fingers as he bore down on it, bringing his listeners helplessly to their feet.
Goodyear’s CDs sold briskly at intermission – the Canadian born artist has recorded all 32 Beethoven Sonatas for Marquis Classics – and members of the audience enjoyed inspecting the signatures inside the piano frame, now with Goodyear’s name alongside Andre Watts, Menahem Pressler and other piano greats.
Premiered in 1898, just a year before his death in a bicycle accident at 44, Chausson’s Piano Quartet stands proudly beside those of Brahms and Schumann and should be heard as often. It shows the influence of his teacher César Franck in its use of cyclic form (repetition and transformation of thematic material throughout a work). And what affecting material it contains. Joined by CSO principal cellist Ilya Finkelshteyn, Goodyear, Lees and Colberg gave it a splendid reading. The opening Animé (“Animated”) began with a congenial statement which grew impassioned, then downright joyous, as the music progressed to its ultimately soft-spoken conclusion. Violist Colberg opened the second movement, Très calme, with a reflective theme, but here, again, the mood grew lush and intense, with some positively pre-Valentine’s Day romance, climaxing in Goodyear’s impassioned restatement of the viola theme.
Cellist Finkelshteyn opened the folk-like third movement, Simple et sans hate (“simple and unhurried”), which sang out before coming to a soft, abrupt end. Then it was no-holds-barred in the Animé finale, where Chausson brings back material from earlier in the Quartet in a spine-tingling mix. The Coda, where the viola theme from the second movement returns in lengthened note values by the viola and cello, sealed the work on a potent, dramatic high.
The concert repeats at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Congregation Beth Adam in Loveland. Tickets ($30, $10 for students) at lintonmusic.org, or call (513) 381-6868.
(first published in the Cincinnati Enquirer Jan. 15, 2013)