Stewart Goodyear / Beethoven Piano Sonatas 7-6-14

One might look at the program for this recital and be forgiven for thinking that it is insane. Goodyear is performing a series of concerts at Bargemusic that will eventually include all of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas; this is concert number three of four. So, seven piano sonatas in slightly more than two hours. I admit, by the end, my attention was wavering.

But it was worth it. Goodyear took a little while to hit his groove. There were moments in the first selection, the Op. 2, no. 3 in A minor, where the phrasing seemed clunky to me (e.g. the beginning of the adagio), in that the-spaces-between-the-notes-aren’t-quite-right way. But by the second sonata, the Op. 7 in E flat, some of the same types of transition that hadn’t felt right to me in the first were rendered more warmly, and with a sense of pulse or structure that I could follow better (I noticed this in particular during the allegro). And by the Op. 10, no 1 we were definitely in business. But the highlight of the first half, and probably the entire thing, was the Moonlight sonata, Op. 27, no. 2, just before the intermission. Part of the reason I enjoy live performances is that you can hear the moment when things began to click, and then you can hear it just go like gangbusters after that, and it’s exciting in a way that’s distinct from the excitement of the music itself. And things had certainly clicked by this point. This was big, expressive, exciting piano playing.

Those who left at the intermission (there were some children in the audience getting restless and I think a few grownups who had hit the Beethoven sonata wall, so to speak) missed out on the Op. 28 (Pastorale), the second movement of which, the andante, was another highlight of the program for me. All in all, despite mild venue-induced motion sickness, a worthwhile few hours.

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