Pianist Stewart Goodyear preps for Beethoven marathon
Classical pianist Stewart Goodyear.
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, May 29, 2012 3:06PM EDT
TORONTO - Classical pianist Stewart Goodyear is gearing up to make history by teaming musical skill and physical endurance in a 10-hour performance of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas.
To perform the 103 individual movements in one day has been a dream since he was a young child, Goodyear said in an interview after a rehearsal for reporters at Toronto's Koerner Hall, where the marathon will take place.
"Beethoven was my first love and Beethoven was a composer who compelled me to be a pianist. I think I heard Beethoven almost since I was born and his music has been with me since."
Goodyear is performing his "Beethoven Marathon" in Toronto on June 9 as part of Luminato, a multidisciplinary festival of arts and creativity that runs June 8 to 17.
The sonatas of Beethoven, said to be a pinnacle of the solo piano repertoire, lend themselves to the one-day extravaganza, which will take place in three concerts.
"I just don't see other composers in a one-day event like this composer," explained Goodyear. "Like I wouldn't do a complete one-day set of Mozart sonatas. I adore Mozart and I adore his sonatas, but somehow with Beethoven, they feel like they're a song cycle in which every song paints a different picture of humanity and that's what I intend to show June 9th."
The musician performed movements from three of the sonatas in Koerner Hall which is attached to the Royal Conservatory of Music, a stone's throw from where he grew up in the Annex area of Toronto.
"I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to present this lifelong dream of presenting this marathon in the way that I saw it when I was around three years old and presenting it in my hometown of Toronto," the pianist said.
Goodyear's father died a month before he was born, but he left behind a wide range of music that captured his precocious young son's interest.
"I grew up surrounded by music. I came from a very eclectic musical background," said Goodyear, who is also a composer. "My father had LPs ranging from Cat Stevens to Led Zeppelin to the Rolling Stones to the Beatles and I was listening to those LPs as well as two boxes of records. One box were the complete Tchaikovsky symphonies and the other box was Beethoven.
"And somehow after listening to those two boxes of records that's when I decided, around I think age three or four, that's when I decided I wanted to be a classical musician.
"There was no other reason why I wanted to be so immersed in classical except for the fact that I just loved the music and I wanted to be a part of it."
He performed his first Beethoven piano sonata at age 10 for a Kiwanis Music Festival and he hasn't looked back. Goodyear, now 34, studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music before receiving a bachelor's degree from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and then a master's degree at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York. He performs with orchestras around the world.
Luminato has commissioned internationally acclaimed Indonesian performance artist Melati Suryodarmo to create an on-stage performance piece to complement Goodyear's marathon. Her three sequences are intended to provide subtle, almost motionless visual enrichment to heighten the listening process. Her pieces are based on research into Beethoven's life and examination of the psychological aspects of his composition of the sonatas.
"Somehow Melati's work stood out in so many ways so I thought it would be really interesting to have that collaboration with her," Goodyear said.
The 32 sonatas will be divided into three concerts, and people can attend one, two or all three.
"There are three specific ticketed timed concerts, 10 a.m. for the first 11 plus Sonatas 19 and 20, which were actually written before what is known as Sonata No. 1, then the middle section will be 3 to 6:30 and then 8:30 to 11:30. So there will be lunch and dinner breaks," explained Mervon Mehta, executive director of performing arts at the Royal Conservatory of Music.
Goodyear equates getting ready for the marathon to boot camp and he said he's training like an athlete, building up stamina through cardiovascular exercises and strength training for his upper and lower body.
He consumes no empty calories, little bread and lots of vegetables, salads, protein and takes multivitamins.
Goodyear has chosen to end the second concert with Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, also known as the tempestuous "Appassionata," because there was a gap of five years before Beethoven wrote the next sonata.
"That is where one will see me just going all out almost to the point that the arms will almost feel like they're falling off and I leave the audience to collect themselves. It will be the end of Concert No. 2. Then it begins on a very serene note in Concert No. 3."
The whole experience is "not really a challenge as it is a ride."