Pianist Stewart Goodyear to play the Beethoven sonatas — complete — in a single day

By From page A9 | September 26, 2013

A good night’s sleep, a hot shower and a morning walk are all Stewart Goodyear needs before he takes the plunge. From 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5, Goodyear will complete a breathtaking feat: a journey through all of Beethoven’s 32 sonatas — in a single day.

Born in Toronto, Canada, the 35-year-old Goodyear began his musical training at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and later went on to receive his bachelor’s degree from the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied with legendary pianist Leon Fleisher. He received his master’s from the Juilliard School of Music where he studied with Oxana Yablonskaya.

Since then, Goodyear has performed with the major orchestras of the world, including the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony, the Toronto Symphony and the Philadelphia Orchestra, among others.

Known for his innovative style, he is one of the few classical soloists to improvise his cadenzas while performing classical-period concertos. His career spans various genres, as he is a composer and a frequent chamber musician as well as a recitalist and concert soloist.

Goodyear’s all-Beethoven program at Mondavi comes in three parts. The first concert is from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. and will cover Op. 49 and Op. 2 to Op. 22, including the exquisite “Pathetique” sonata.

After a lunch break, his second program from 3 to 6:30 p.m. will cover Op. 26 to Op. 57, including the much-loved “Moonlight,” “Pastoral” and “Appasionata” sonatas. Finally, after a dinner break, Goodyear will wrap up the program with a final concert from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. including the fiery “Hammerklavier.”

Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas were written over a period of more than 25 years, and Goodyear’s relationship with the sonatas also has spanned many years. Recalling his first connection with the composer at the age of 3, he said, “I went to a record store and saw a box set of all the Beethoven piano sonatas. I didn’t know a composer could write so many! I came home and listened to all the sonatas in one day, all 13 LPs. That’s how I saw the sonatas, as a large set, and knew that’s how I should perform them.”

When Goodyear became a young piano student, he eventually began to play the Beethoven sonatas, in addition to listening to them on record. Asked what it feels like to return to sonatas that he had played when he was much younger, Goodyear said, “Imagine listening to a song you grew up with, and then hearing it with new ears. That’s how it feels playing sonatas I learned at age 10 that I’m revisiting at age 35.”

Given that Beethoven is one of the most performed composers in the piano repertoire, Goodyear keeps it fresh “by making it personal. You always have to bring something that is within you. Your own empathy, something that goes right down to the pit of your stomach. You learn notes so that you’re not reiterating the sonata, so that it’s in your blood.”

Goodyear’s recording of the complete Beethoven sonatas was released worldwide in September 2012 under the Marquis Classics label. In recording the sonatas, Goodyear found not only inspiration but growth, “just like when people go back to their childhood for a sense of rebirth, I went back to these sonatas.”

Although his decision to perform the complete Beethoven in one day is highly unusual, Goodyear insists it’s not a stunt, but rather a serious effort to let audiences experience the breadth of the composer’s vision, and the relationship between the early, middle and late sonatas.

“This is not about an endurance test,” Goodyear said. “This is about communicating to the audience my personal journey with these sonatas and introducing them to different sides of Beethoven that you wouldn’t get if it was just a two-hour recital,” touching down on a few works.

Goodyear is so eager to introduce to the audience his complete view of the composer, because “Beethoven communicates every feeling of the human condition, every experience. The Opus 49 is the introduction, and after you spend a day with Beethoven you have such a close relationship to the composer. You leave absolutely well fed, spiritually.”

Of preparing for the daylong program, Goodyear said, “Someone told me that the best preparation is to know the piece inside out so that you are living, breathing, eating and sleeping it. When that day comes and you are in front of the audience, it’s pouring out of you. It just becomes very natural, not studied, with a freeing interpretation. You’re there, you’re communicating, you’re on.”

Audiences can buy tickets to one (or two) of Saturday’s recitals, or purchase an all-day pass covering all three programs. Tickets to individual concerts are $25 general, $12.50 for UC Davis students or children. All-day passes are $75 general, $37.50 for students and children, available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.



Han-Ah Sumner

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