Stewart Goodyear at Koerner

Yes, a real live concert at Koerner Hall; the first of 2022.  Owing to the current restrictions it was quite a short concert with no interval (although the time it took the stage crew to set up for the second half there could have been!).  The first piece was the premier of Goodyear’s Piano Quintet.  It’s a very complex piece riffing off Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.  Stewart describes it better than I ever could:

“My piano quintet was commissioned by the Penderecki String Quartet (who played it with Stewart last night – JG) and the Canada Council for the Arts. It was composed in 2020 and pays homage to the spirit of Beethoven. The first movement is a passacaglia on the almost atonal eleven-note sequence from the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The second movement is a Ländler, fused with gestures of rhythm and blues and calypso. The third movement is a fast toccata, sampling themes of Beethoven similarly to a hip-hop track. The last movement starts as a lament and ends with a glimmer of hope, the inspiration directly taken from the challenges of the pandemic and the need for Beethoven’s spirit during these tumultuous times.”

It’s a highly virtuosic piece requiring a lot of extended technique from the players and it’s pretty demanding on the listener.  I would need to listen to it a couple more times to really “get” it.

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The second piece was the first three movements of the Liszt piano transcription of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony coupled with an arrangement of the last movement for piano, soloists and chorus; part Liszt, part Goodyear I think.  It was interesting.  The piano part in the first three movements is mad, especially in the faster passages.  It was like watching one of those Looney Tunes cartoons where the pianist has extra arms, or possibly Daffy Duck setting the piano on fire.  Really rather awesome.  It was also very musical and quite beautiful especially in the more relaxed sections.  The final part brought n the professional element of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, so maybe twenty four voices?  And, of course, soloists, Charlotte Siegel, Beste Kalender, Zachary Rioux and Korin Thomas-Smith.  It was very decent.  Thomas-Smith, of course has the most to do and sang powerfully and with feeling.  Rioux’ muscular tenor worked well with the chorus.  I always feel the ladies get a bit short-changed in this piece but they both sounded fine.  The choir was incisive despite singing in masks and having odd bits of perspex around.  I did feel something was going on with the acoustic tough as the sound wasn’t as clear and bright as I expect in Koerner.

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Best of all though, it was live music with a real people audience.

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Photo credits: Lisa Sakulensky, courtesy of The Royal Conservatory/Koerner Hall

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