Hailed as one of Canada’s finest pianists, Stewart Goodyear has made an extraordinary career performing as a concerto soloist, recitalist and recording artist. He is also an accomplished composer and improviser. His recordings of the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas, of Ravel, Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky have all garnered critical acclaim, and his performance from memory of the 32 Beethoven Sonatas at Toronto’s Luminato Festival gained worldwide attention. A dedicated admirer of Glenn Gould, Stewart has on several occasions recreated the program of Gould’s first international recital, his January 1955 performance at the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C. – both at the Phillips Collection itself in 2016 and for The Glenn Gould Foundation at La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux, France last year to commemorate the 85th anniversary of Gould’s birth (http://glenngould.ca/glenn-gould-honoured-in-france/) Now, Stewart has released a new recording that combines music from the Phillips Collection recital with repertoire from another historic Gould recital, his appearance at the Ladies’ Morning Music Club in Montreal, his 1952 debut performance in that city. The result is the album, For Glenn Gould, to be released in March.
The Glenn Gould Foundation caught up with Stewart in the midst of his touring to discuss this remarkable new recording and his thoughts about Gould.
GGF: 1) Can you tell us how this program originated, and how it’s connected to Glenn Gould?
SG: This program consists of repertoire Glenn Gould performed in his historic debuts at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC, and the Ladies Morning Music Club in Montreal. Many of the works programmed were very close to Gould, and both programs showcased some of his most favourite composers.
GGF: What does Gould and his legacy as an artist mean to you?
SG: Gould’s legacy meant so much to me growing up in the city of Toronto. His individualism on the piano, his writings about music, and the fact that he was also a composer, motivated me to find my own voice, and to always be on the quest of communicating my love of music to listeners, audience members and, one day, readers.
GGF: When you’ve recreated his early concert programs, what have the audience reactions been?
SG: When I recreated Gould’s programs at both the Phillips Collection and the Ladies Morning Music Club, I felt a very intimate relationship with the audience. There was an audience member at my concert in Montreal who was also there for Gould’s debut. After my concert, she came backstage and told me that my performance brought back vivid memories of Gould’s concert, and that she wished he had in the audience to hear my interpretations. That meant so much to me.
GGF: Many musicians are inspired by Gould’s playing but others find it wayward, particularly in certain repertoire like his Mozart. How do you reconcile your relationship with him or your admiration for him with interpretations of his that you might disagree with strongly?
SG: Glenn Gould’s interpretations will always inspire discussion...for some listeners, Gould’s take on composers like Mozart and Beethoven provided a new way of listening to their well-known and often-recorded compositions. For others, his interpretations were maddening and controversial, as Gould would sometimes deliberately do the opposite of what those two composers directed the pianist to do. Both groups of listeners were never indifferent, and for me, that was the secret to Gould’s magnetism: an artist boldly following his own path and convictions, and taking all listeners along with him.
GGF: Do you see a connecting thread between the works on this program, and did you make any surprising discoveries along the way? Also, music like that of Sweelinck is almost never performed on a modern piano - do you see rewards in exploring pre-Bach keyboard music on your instrument?
SG: I think Glenn Gould was a masterful programmer. His sense of timing, and his knowledge of how each piece on his two programs complimented each other, was genius.
Being introduced to the keyboard music of Orlando Gibbons and Jan Sweelinck was highly rewarding for me; I sang motets of both composers when I attended a choir school in Toronto, and I felt like I was going back to my childhood while preparing their works for the Washington and Montreal concerts.
GGF: As a Canadian artist with an international career, how has Gould affected you, and do you think it’s had an impact on the receptivity of international audiences to Canadian musicians?
SG: I think because of Gould, international audiences are very excited to hear Canadian musicians, and as a Canadian artist, I love performing for audiences around the world and sharing my interpretations of composers of every nationality.
GGF: If you had had a chance to meet Gould, what questions would you have asked him / what would you have liked to discuss with him?
SG: If I had a chance to meet Gould, I would have asked him to lunch at Frans (Gould’s favorite diner in Toronto), and conversed with him about art, music, traveling, doing impersonations, and the city of Toronto for hours!