Stewart Goodyear: For Glenn Gould
Many years ago I was hired to perform Beethoven’s C minor Variations with the Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. Jones had based his choreography on Glenn Gould’s recording, and it was up to me to replicate Gould’s idiosyncratically slow conception. Although I could match Gould’s tempos, I couldn’t begin to imitate his sonority, his articulation, his voicing, his phrasing. No one can; nor should one try.
Similarly, in this excellently engineered release, Stewart Goodyear more or less replicates the programme that Gould played for his 1955 American debut recitals, yet his interpretations owe little to Gould and nearly everything to his own strong personality and intelligent musicianship. In contrast to Gould’s signature hair-trigger staccato articulation, Goodyear’s rapid runs in the Gibbons Galliard and Sweelinck Fantasia connect in long lines, yet with a palpable sense of air between the notes. He contours the three-part interplay of Bach’s Sinfonias in singing arcs where the legato is produced through finger power and hand balance, with little help from the sustain pedal. If an air of caution hovers over the G major Partita’s Praeambulum, Goodyear’s firm and extrovert Allemande contrasts to Gould’s scaled-down intimacy. While the Courante and Gigue evoke Gould’s famous détaché approach, Goodyear goes his own way regarding emphasis and accent.
I suspect that the unusually pliant bass lines on which Goodyear’s interpretations of the Brahms A major and C sharp minor Intermezzos pivot have more than a little to do with his own compositional proclivities (Goodyear’s own piano music is highly contrapuntal). Also note the variations in voicing during the Berg Sonata’s exposition repeat, and the way Goodyear resists the usual temptation to plough through the development section, allowing the overlapping entrances to register clearly and logically. By contrast, the final climax might have benefited from more breathing room, yet the pianist gauges the desolate concluding measures to perfection.
Naturally all good Gould tributes include the Aria from Bach’s Goldberg Variations as an encore. Despite Goodyear’s relaxed walking tempo and straightforward simplicity, he would have made the point more succinctly without observing both A- and B section repeats. As did Gould …