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Goodyear's Star Shines for Constella

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Oct 21, 2013 - 3:39:47 PM in reviews_2013

Stewart Goodyear

A live performance of Beethoven’s “Diabelli” Variations is an event. Even more so, when the pianist is Stewart Goodyear.

One of the prime interpreters of Beethoven today – hear his box set of the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas and, if you can, one of his Beethoven marathons, in which he performs all 32 sonatas in one day (from memory) – the Canadian born pianist was guest artist with the Constella Festival Saturday night at Memorial Hall.

Dubbed “Spellbound: Three Centuries, Three Summits,” the concert also featured works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Alban Berg. It was a musically rich and enriching experience, elegant in conception and execution and a treat for the small, but knowing audience who attended.

Berg’s early (Op. 1) Piano Sonata in B Minor, dating from 1907-1909, went first. The one-movement, 12 ½-minute work emerged as a beauty in Goodyear’s hands, shaped just-so to highlight the harmonic variety within its overall tonal framework.

Goodyear scaled the eighteenth-century summit next with Bach’s “French” Suite No. 5 in G Major, BWV 816 (ca. 1723). He distinguished its seven dance-like gems tastefully and with the utmost precision. The noble, galant Allemande was followed by a bright, frisky Courante and a gentle flow of melody in the Sarabande. Pacing, expression, everything was beautifully in place to the rapid, bell-like Gigue at the end.

Beethoven’s “33 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli” (1819-1823) is a summit in itself, but it proved no obstacle for Goodyear. The variations are widely, not to say wildly, diverse, from a pair of 40-second Prestos to the richly ornamented, seven-minute Largo (no. 31) near the end. The waltz itself, by Beethoven’s friend, Austrian composer/publisher Anton Diabelli, is not even very waltz-like -- all the more reason for Beethoven to tackle it, perhaps. It is one of his late works, differing from the “serious,” introspective style of his late music in general in its good humor and frank delight in compositional rigor.

Goodyear’s reading -- like everything on the program, completely from memory -- was everything one could wish for: lofty (no. 1), emphatic (no. 4), fleet-footed (no. 10), coaxingly smooth (no. 12) and outright funny (no. 13, with its silent pauses). The famous Mozart send up (no. 22, which quotes Leporello’s aria notte e giorno faticar, “night and day I slave away,” from “Don Giovanni”) fit right in.


Goodyear’s variety of tone production – amply captured in the generous acoustics of Memorial Hall – and his technical facility were amazing, never more so than in the great fugue at the end (no. 32, echoing back to Bach) and the final variation, a soft, tender minuet, which brought the work to a close on a note of complete sincerity.

The concert was accompanied by an exhibition by artists and craftsmen of Brazee Street Studios in Oakley. On display in the meeting rooms on the ground floor of the hall were fine art, furniture and design accessories. Participating artists included Sean Druley, Cedric Cox, Jacqueline Wood, Susan Byrnes, Reptiles & Rainbows, Kent Krugh, Catherine Richards, John Beasley, Leslie Daly, Christopher Daniel, Sara Pearce, Didem Mert, Sand Glass Studio and Jolie Harris.

"Dancing Angels," Cedric Cox

"Silence," Christopher Daniel

"Year of the Snake," Reptiles & Rainbows

"Endangered Fruit Series," Sandra Gross, Sand Glass Studio

"Paper with a Past," Sara Pearce