Stewart Goodyear and The Beethoven Effect.

Stewart Goodyear,

Story:Lenny Stoute

Meet Stewart Goodyear, Canada’s hottest rising star you’ve never heard of. That’s because the 32 year old former child prodigy is a classical pianist and you know how many Junos they take home ever year.

But this year it’s going to be different because this year Goodyear is taking his much-acclaimed Beethoven Sonatas program to the international stage. While he boasts a repertoire ranging from Bach to Messiaen, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt and Gershwin, it is for his impassioned renderings of Beethoven’s sonatas which have brought him to the attention of the classical music fans.

Along with passion, Goodyear brings showmanship to the table. Much of the pre-show attention given to his Beethoven programs stemmed from the Guinness Book of Records type feat, in which he performed all 32 Beethoven sonatas, spread over nine concerts in five mind-blowing days, from July 27 to 31 during the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival in 2010.

"It was a journey, and I knew it was going to be joyful no matter where the journey took me. It's a very overwhelming feeling to be immersed in the evolution of Beethoven's creativity."

The feat, which may a world first, represents a major milestone in the gifted pianist's life as he said he'd always wanted to do this since he first had the idea at age 15. He recalls at 3 ½ playing back what he heard on the radio, what his parents were playing in the home. He started formal lessons at 7 and by 8 started composing pieces, the first for his school choir.

Then it was on to the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, a bachelor's degree from Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and a Masters from New York’s uber-prestigious Juilliard School of Music. Now calling New York City home, Stewart has performed with the major orchestras of the world and is known for a strong, passionate style, elegance of nuance, scintillating technique and great emotional depth.

All of which has moved Goodyear to the foremost rank of Beethoven soloists, a position that suits him like a Beethoven sonata.

“ There are so many factors which attracted me to his work. Beethoven was a revolutionary who was fully aware that he was changing the shape of music. He did it with passion and that passion is what first communicated to me.

“ Everything he did had its own challenges and rewards. When I started with the sonatas, I was intrigued by the way each one had its own personality and its own innovation. Because each is so different, performing each one is its own experience”. 

Goodyear recalls the Ottawa series as very gratifying in terms of the tremendous response the music was getting, with every performance sold out and drawing rock concert length lineups. The makeup of which also said much about Goodyear’s appeal.

“ My concerts are drawing in the full range of demographics; I’m seeing people of all ages and colours coming out. I think the attraction for younger people is the fact that Beethoven was a revolutionary, going against the creative grain. Young people can relate to that.

“What’s interesting about performing classic music is that there are no rules on presentation. You can have as much style as you like. Franz Liszt was the first music superstar; he changed up his presentation to make it more of an experience.

“ I feel I’m presenting Beethoven as a complete experience. So we’re very conscious of the staging; it’s something we’re still working on”
Goodyear is of black Trinidadian/British ancestry, making him a rarity on the classical music scene. Having quickly proved himself by the power of his playing, his road from there to here has been relatively smooth.

On the topic of race-related challenges, the smoothly diplomatic Goodyear offers that though there may have been suggestions about his repertoire and style early on, there was never anything direct, just whispers in rehearsal halls.

“ From the very beginning I wasn’t ever thinking in terms of race, I was thinking of my love of the music I was playing. I was always wary of negative reactions, as I was aware it was all about putting limitations on me and I have no room for that.
“That’s the story of Beethoven in a way, that he refused to accept limitations on his music, on his creativity” .

The sonatas were recently released as a two disc set on the Marquis Label. Coming soon a documentary on the making of the Beethoven recordings that Goodyear is very pumped about. He’s currently taking a break between legs of a U.S. tour, which will keep him on the road for most of the summer. Check Goodyear ‘s stuff on a pair of YouTube videos and if you get a sense that 2011 is his good year, you’re right.